There has been some buzz due to an article written by Anthony Bradley on the subject of “Radical Christianity.” I don’t want to do a full on critic on what he says. But, instead, I want to communicate my views on “Radical” vs. “1 Thess. 4″ as to help, hopefully, bring balance.
To be a Christian is to be radical. I will say that I am not in favor of using special classifying terms for believers. We do have a way of throwing terms of “extraness” upon being a Christian (Passionate Christian, Radical Christian, etc). Because of the nominalism around us I understand why such terms come into be. But we need to step back and remember that those terms are already embedded within the term Christian. To be a Christian is to inherently be those things.
There are times when certain characteristics of being a Christian do come to the forefront. The term at this time is one of being radical, or the idea of holding nothing back and sacrificing all for the sake of Christ. These characteristics are, without a doubt, biblical. But how do we live them out?
If being radical is limited to a particular ministry in a particular place we do not have the radical part of Christianity. We have discontentment (if we are not at that particular place) and pride (if we are at that particular place).
This is where Jesus’s statement about a particular widow gives us a biblical frame work. Being radical is not how much you give but how much it costs you. It is not setting a particular amount to give and making that the standard of radical. It is about the individual cost.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44)
The fact is, God does not need anything you give Him. You could have all the intellectual and political ability to do tremendous deeds, but you still are not necessary to God. He would get the job done better than you ever could. He did not need the widows money.
What God wants is trust and devotion to Him shown through the diversity of weak people He chooses to save. Radicalness can come in the form of Paul braving the dangerous seas so he could bring the gospel to distant lands and it can come in the form of an overlooked widow dropping a penny as a offering.
Christ gave-up the glories of heaven so He might take the indignities of our sin. It is, thus, fitting that those who died with Him now walk as living sacrifices. Always growing in allowing the One who Bought them to take more of their lives. How do we live out this aspect of being radical?
1. Being radical with what you have been given and where you have been placed. Discontentment and pride can take very spiritual forms. Being radical is not sitting at home wishing you were not a widow and thinking if you had more to give you would be of better use. It is moving where you have to move and using what you have to use. It is the cost which God sees as signs of trust. So don’t look towards the future but look at what you are holding back right now. Is it pride? Is it fear? Is it not preferring others over yourself? Right there, in front of you, you will find where you need to be radical.
2. Being radical is seeking to give all wherever the Lord is pointing out. I know for me I know I need to give up more in the realm of selfishness and fear. Putting myself smack-dab in the middle of relationships is where I need to be. Or it is taking leadership in pursuit of a sister and facing the fears and the uncertainty as I learn to trust more in Him who is ever certain. Right there, where I am weakest, is where I am to be radical! It would be much easier to dream about serving in a orphanage in Africa. But I know this is where I need to be radical.
3. Being radical can look very ordinary. Putting pennies in offering, nothing to report there. And ask yourselves, what is love? Is it great faith to walk on water? Is it great sacrifice for the name of Christ? Is it having all knowledge to reject heresy? No. It is patient, kind, not envious, nor boastful. Easily past by in the search for more “radical” things! Yes, pure and undefiled religion is visiting orphans and widows in their affliction (Jam. 1:27) But worthy religion is also bridling your tongue (Jam. 1:26).
As a follower of the crucified Christ you are to carry your cross of crucifixion (Matt 16:24) while aspiring ”to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands,” (1 Thess. 4:11).For some the cross will take you to unreached people groups to live out ordinary Christianity before them in speech and life. And to another it will mean spending 40+ hours a week to provide for your wife and children while living and speaking the gospel before them in radical ways. Each has their place and each has their cost.
The way to be radical is to always be asking, “how can I give Him more?” How can I witness more to my coworkers? How can I get my children excited about missions? How can I reach out to the overlooked people in my church more? What can I do so that those who do not have a bible in their own language have one? How can I be praying more? There is radical Christianity!
We gave nothing and now posses everything through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have no debts to pay! All we owe only points to the amount of mercy we have received. And because of this we can press on in giving Him every section of out lives. From one degree to the next as the Spirit sanctifies us. Pressing ever on in radical call of Christ!