Radical, radical, radical.
Everything is about being a radical follower of Jesus.
How to say this…have you noticed everything is kind of polarized lately?
When it comes to politics (this post is not about politics, it’s just an example, don’t click that back button), I feel like the guy trying to keep the Hatfields and McCoys apart. On one side, millennial friends who are left-wing Christians (you didn’t misread that); on the other, conservatives like myself. Their debates are.I’m trying to maintain a balance for myself; there’s usually a kernel of truth in most viewpoints.
Of course, the pickle of being in the middle is that it leaves you saying opposite things to each side in order to bring them closer. It feels…weird. Like I’m contradicting myself.
But I’m not, because not everyone needs to hear the same thing.
Getting off politics, I recently stumbled across a blog post pushing back against Christian author Francis Chan for criticizing believers who homeschool or private school. I don’t know if Chan meant to suggest a blanket ban, but this writer thought he did, and boom…another debate. Is homeschooling radical?
I’m not here to answer that, either. Truth is, it depends on who you ask.
And that’s the problem. Everyone’s saying “radical Christianity”; nobody’s given us a foolproof formula for what it looks like.
God has, though.
Labeling foreign missions as “radical and thus God’s call for you” isn’t a slam dunk. For some people, foreign missions aren’t radical. Some folks were born with the travel bug, dislike America, want to escape family drama, and love the Gospel. So they eat up missions. They don’t feel at home unless they’re muck-deep in Senegal. What would be radical for those believers is settling down in Kansas and starting a family complete with white picket fence and rooster windvane, precisely because it’s outside their comfort zone and would drive them nuts (at first). If their frustration stems from unsanctified places in their heart, like the aforementioned mixed motives, it’s easy to see why even a “radical” God would call them to such a “simple” life. It’s not simple for them at all.
On the other hand, some people do see missions as radical. Insane, even. That’s the group Chan often addresses, and there’s a lot of overlap between them and the domain of heartland churches with seemingly no definition of God’s calling except settling down. We singles know all about them. They heckle us about who we’re seeing, insist who’d be a perfect match, ask when we’ll “get a move on”. They mean well, of course. But it all teaches singles to want nothing else and undervalue their opportunity of singleness, contributing to that infamous problem of Christian singles making poor relationship choices and lacking God’s peace and joy. They really need to start bearing fruit in the present. Sprinkle some fear and and apathy into their personalities, and it’s easy to see why foreign missions might well be sanctification for them – but not for the other group.
And one of the scribes came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go. Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.”
Another of His disciples requested, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Two different people. Two different responses.
God does not work the same way with everyone.
That is a really tricky statement. It means we can’t rely on principles to navigate our lives, which would be easier. Some principles in Scripture are universal, certainly – for example, God will never call you to sin. But Jesus didn’t heal everyone in the same way, either – far from it. In regards to guidance and direction, there are still things one person will hear from God that another person will not, because not everyone or their callings are exactly alike.
I’m not suggesting we just “do what’s hardest”. That can be a good hunch to explore if you’re dry of direction, but it’s still just another principle, with the same liability of all principles: you could follow them for years and never talk to God.
The most radical thing any Christian can do is walk intimately with God, speaking and listening to him, every day.
That’s exactly what he wants, by the way. It’s why he sometimes gets counterintuitive on us. The stories of Joshua’s army at Ai, Gideon arrayed against the Midianites, Ananias hesitating to meet Saul…common sense and wisdom say one thing in these stories, God says another. He wants us relying on him.
Acts 16 even shows God stopping Paul from spreading the gospel in parts of Asia. Sweet buckets, who amongst us would expect God to say that? We’d be all “Of course God wants us to preach in this town, it’s the Gospel!” and go for it. Not this time. Only by listening to him does Paul find God’s path.
We should stop trying to live by broad-brush categories and ask God. Chan constantly preaches this. Maybe God wants you in Town A, or Profession B, or Ministry C; maybe not. Hard to know unless you ask him.
The process of hearing from God is an involved and sometimes lengthy one, involving confirmation from Scripture and trustworthy counsel, perhaps fasting, especially when going against wisdom or common sense. But wisdom has sight limits. The Bible is our truth check; no word truly from God will ever violate it. But it also teaches pretty clearly – if we want to see God fully revealed, we have to listen. Let go our own desires and understanding (an act of faith), ask him, and listen.
We will not fail to experience radical discipleship if we do.