I remember reading Radical by David Platt with a group of eighty young adult/college students a few years back. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration but I think for many of us it was a spiritual pivotal point in our lives where God seemed to cut through the haze of our comfort to remind us about the gospel. Countercultural… radical… passionate… embracing upside-down Kingdom values.
There’s one thing I’ve noticed more and more – when people tell you they understand the gospel yet it doesn’t seem to awaken them to anything. If the Christian life is a movement of growing faith in light of our righteous standing (Romans 1:17), what kind of faith (trusting belief) do people have if they never get to the end of their resources and comfort, never risking in the direction of the unknown because all they have is God, never stepping out of the cocoon of safety and comfort? I think what Platt and others are getting at is how easy it is for us in the West to slip into a kind of laziness and comfort that reduces the gospel to a sort of “niceness”. It might be one of our greatest temptations in the West: the tendency of our “flesh” is to not give ourselves to that which is vital. The intent of the gospel is to break through our cold hearts and to wake us up from sleepwalking through life by stirring our hearts with what’s truly beautiful and what we really need!
On the other hand, I do believe along with others that it’s hard to emotionally sustain over one’s lifetime the kind of intensity that many understand as “being radical”. That might be my one critique of Radical and other books like it – that it can lead people to a kind of “radical for the sake of being radical” or “crazy for the sake of crazy” where one has not discerned the Lord’s heart in terms of when, how much, etc. I would like to offer at least there are ways to live counterculturally that might not appear as grand.
I read a blog by Dean Inserra recently where he insightfully takes this concept of discipleship to Jesus and applies to dating (http://deaninserra.com/dean/?p=3539 ). In the article, he speaks of Jesus actually interfering in a person’s dating life, getting them to think differently about how they date. I think the principle extends to every area of our lives where the follower of Christ is roused out of their sleepwalking enough to realize, “Jesus is messing with my comfortable life!” If you knew that you were headed in the wrong direction wouldn’t you want someone to tell you? If you knew there was a character trait in you that was causing havoc in other people’s lives and potentially in your own, wouldn’t you want a friend to lovingly tell you to spare you of serious future relational pain? Whether it’s our career plans, how wrapped we are with our children, our character, our money, our dating relationships, we need Christ not to just bless “our plans” but to actually interfere when we buffer ourselves from any instruction or correction.
The “radical” life, it seems to me, is an embracing of the gospel and all its implications more deeply as we move through life. When we allow the truth of what Jesus has done in history to enter into those deep caverns of the heart where we protect our lives, we will discover places where we live cross purposes with Jesus. How radical? Radical enough that you let Jesus interfere with your life and cross your will so that you can respond in trusting belief. Discipleship might include some pretty big things like selling what you have and giving the money to the poor. It might mean actually becoming a missionary. But for all of us, at least it means a daily movement of faith, from first faith to last faith, as we willingly let Jesus mess with our lives and respond accordingly in faith however small or large that is. That should be included in the definition of “crazy” and “radical” as well…