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Don’t be radical, be faithful

Do you love Jesus?

Do you love him enough to die for him?

Where is the evidence?

We are hearing and reading plenty of calls for ‘radical’ commitment to Christ these days, it seems to be a bit of a trendy stance to take. However, I’m not sure that Jesus actually wants us to be radical, certainly not in the sense of being ‘extreme’ (another cool way to describe oneself). When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” he did not tell him to do something radical, he told Peter to serve him faithfully (John 21:15).

True, Jesus did tell Peter he would lay down his life, and he had already left everything he had in order to follow Jesus, in fact Peter had no hesitation in leaving his job to follow Jesus (John 21:18-19, Mark 10:28-29, Mark 1:16-18). In current terminology this would be labeled as a radical commitment. But consider what Jesus was actually demanding from Peter – follow Me, to the exclusion of all else. Serve My people, care for them in My name. Jesus called Peter to be with him and to lead others on the same path. A path of weakness and failure (John 13:37-38), a path of obedience (John 14:15). Have a read of Peter’s epistles – he consistently exhorts us to be faithful and obedient, for example:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

We tend to like the idea of being able to summon up the willpower, emotional energy and faith to make a radical decision which will place us on a course of unusual devotion and service for Christ. In my experience the choices with guaranteed ongoing consequences are generally not good ones.

The idea behind ‘Radical Christianity’ is basically a return to the roots of what Christianity is all about. However, the way the word ‘radical’ is bandied around these days it is effectively used as a synonym for ‘extreme’. I can understand the appeal of calling people to a ‘radical commitment’ to Christ or ‘radical discipleship’, but in the end it becomes yet another meaningless phrase that sounds impressive while having no content.

In the real world of living as a Christian in our homes, workplaces and communities, extremism is not going to get us very far. There is an attractiveness to the idea of making a single decision that will have flow-on consequences of increased faithfulness to Christ in all areas of my life. Unfortunately discipleship doesn’t work that way. From what I’ve seen the decisions which have unavoidable flow-on consequences are generally stupid, selfish ones and the flow-on effects are all destructive (eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much, saying too much, lusting too much, driving too fast… ).

So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
(1 Corinthians 7:24 ESV)

Paul wanted to draw the Corinthians’ attention away from their circumstances and emphasize that the full Christian life could be lived anywhere by anyone if lived in deep communion with God. Do we really believe that? Really?
Redefining Radical (Part 2)
What ever happened to a theology of calling and vocation? by Skye Jethani

The path to great devotion and service to Christ is one of small steps repeated often, it is narrow and hard (Matthew 23:11-12). Learning obedience and faithfulness occurs in the small mundane details of killing selfishness, pride, coveting and a myriad of other sins. The greatest in the kingdom of God is the servant, not the most radical (Matthew 23:11-12). Someone who is great in the eyes of God will be overlooked by others.

The evidence of my love for Christ is seen in the little, automatic actions, thoughts, words and choices that I make every day. These mundane details display, or betray, any love I claim to have for Jesus

…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV)