It’s always dangerous to try to formulate thoughts into words on paper (or blogs) when those thoughts haven’t fully formed, and in most areas of my life, I abandoned the most dangerous of my past activities once I had kids. My sense of self-preservation went way, way up once I realized that driving recklessly, jumping off of tall cliffs into water, sword fighting, and many other fun but dangerous activities were all potentially harmful to more than just myself. Now, dangerous for me looks like posting potentially controversial or not-yet-fully-formed thoughts on Facebook or my blog. I’m a real “thrill seeker” nowadays. Anyways, I have many different things that I’ve been ruminating on, and I’m trying to figure out what they all mean for my life and my church.
I’ve said before that whenever I get a chance to have some time off, I try not to expect any epiphanies or great ideas, but so often, something like that ends up happening. I don’t know if anything that I’m thinking will formulate itself fully into an executable lifestyle (or churchstyle…if that’s a word) change, but that’s part of the reason that I don’t ever expect anything from these times of rest and relaxation.
One of the signs that God is pushing me to change or showing me something new usually has to do with many different mediums of communication to me all lining up in their message. I’m sure many of you have experienced something similar. As a matter of fact, I’ve found that God is often pleased to make his desires plain to his people through using many different people and things to all communicate a similar message. We are dense people, and we need repetition to be able to learn. So it has been with some of my most recent thoughts and feelings. As I said before though, it’s difficult for me to formulate it all into coherent thoughts. I’ll try to at least give a teaser though.
I’ve been reading lots while on vacation, and there have been a few messages that have been pervasive among all the different things I’ve been reading. Most of what I’ve read, we would probably all agree with, and much of it has been said before, so it’s nothing earth shattering, but it’s some of the implications that have me thinking.
We’ve all heard that God calls us to a “radical” life haven’t we? We’ve all heard that “to live is Christ.” Many of us grew up in church, and learned that to follow Jesus is good, but hard. Some of us have even taken this to heart and sought to try to figure out what “to live is Christ” means. But, and this is where I have trouble formulating my thoughts, how many of us really live any type of “radical” life? How many of us could really say that we live in such a way that we have taken up our cross and followed Christ? How many of us who desire to live a godly life have experienced persecution as Peter warned we would? How many of us have really experienced any suffering for the cause of Christ? I know some have, and I would never discredit that, but so many never have.
But even that fact is not one that I’m particularly concerned with right now, and here’s why. If you ask most evangelical christians what type of life a follower of Christ is called to, they’ll say something about cross bearing, and narrow road walking, and suffering, and sacrifice. Most of us would agree that it’s something that God has called christians to, but few of us really live in such a way that we would ever have to experience those things in any real measure. Now, it’s at precisely this point that people in America always add a note. In some way, shape or form, whenever we talk in America about how christians are called to suffer, we quickly pull back the weight of that statement to try to ease the blow (or make it fail to land altogether). We quickly add that it’s not wrong to have things, for example, after looking at scripture’s commands to care for the poor and give to missions. Or, after showing the call to evangelism given to all believers, we quickly point out that for some, it comes more naturally than others and that it might not be “your gift.” Or we speak of the call of Christ for christians to pursue a life that would lead to suffering for the cause of Christ, but then we tell those who live 6 figure lifestyles (note a distinction between simply having a six figure income and living a six figure lifestyle) that they experience suffering too. I could go on, but I hope you get the point. And please note that I’m not saying that any of these things aren’t true. It is certainly not wrong to have things, and some people ARE more easily able to speak of Christ to the lost, and some very rich people do experience real suffering and trial. But my question is why do we do that? Why do we soften those commands? I have a theory, and it may be wrong, and it will no doubt get me in trouble, but I have a theory about why we don’t preach a more radical christianity here in America.
I think we’re too comfortable. And I think maybe we are still idolizing the “American dream.”
It seems like every time we speak about the radical call of the christian life, that here in America, we almost apologize for the bible. It seems like we make excuses for why it’s ok that our lives aren’t marked by suffering, radical giving, radical evangelism and discipleship, or radical serving.
Now, at this point I should say that I’ve never read the book entitled “Radical” by David Platt. I’ve never heard him preach on the subject. As a matter of fact, when I first heard the premise behind his book I actually balked at it. Looking back now I believe that (although the book has plenty of flaws) it was because even the very premise of the book assaults my comfortable lifestyle.
Now most of you who know me know that my life wouldn’t be considered “comfortable” by the “american dream” crowd, but that’s not the point. I am, or more accurately, was, at the time I first began thinking about “radical” living, plenty comfortable. That was about two years ago, and the I’ve been thinking about some of these things ever since.
I imagine even as some of you are reading this, that you’re making excuses for the life you live, so please know that I’m not here to judge, or cast judgement, on you. But I would ask this question: why is it that when we are confronted with the reality of the commands in scripture to live for Christ, that we feel convicted? And why is it that we work so hard to fight those feelings by telling ourself that our lives are acceptable before God? Again, I don’t know if your life properly reflects the call of Christ to “die daily” to self and to this world, and I’m not trying to make you feel unnecessarily guilty or condemned, but I really want answers to these questions.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then we, as christians, are the most pitiable group of people on the planet. I was reading an author’s take on the implications of this and he remarked that many of us, if we were to suddenly realize that nothing in scripture is true, still live in such a way that very little about our lives would change. Even the “best of us” probably wouldn’t feel that we were the most “pitiable” group of people. We have decent jobs, good families, and decent social status. Sure, we might not be doing our family devotions in the morning, or going to church 3 times a week, or reading our bibles daily, and we would struggle with the feelings of wasted time, but would others look at us and say “I pity that poor person.”
I doubt it.
The implication of that passage is that christians live in such a way, that if there is no resurrection, then EVERYTHING about their lives is meaningless. This idea has just been nagging at me. The question would be “would my life be looked at as a miserable waste by others, if the scriptures weren’t true and God not real?” Or is my life one that a friends consolation might be “it’s ok, I know that you’ve found out some life-changing news, but hey, you’ve still got alot going for you, and you’ve still done things you can be proud of…you’re life hasn’t been wasted.”
I don’t want to live a life like that. I want to live a life that would have atheists saying “he is wasting his whole life.” I want to live a life that stakes EVERYTHING on the resurrection. I don’t want to make less of the resurrection than Paul did. Paul said that the hope of the resurrection is entirely everything for us. I want to live a life like that. And I’m tired of people softening the shocking message that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It’s interesting, because when someone starts to talk like this, others around him often try to stop him. I would imagine that it’s because they feel guilty when someone around them really decides not to “love the world or the things in the world” but instead to count everything this life has to offer as “rubbish” to be traded for the surpassing worth of Christ.
To die is gain. To die is gain.
Do we really believe that? Have we really staked EVERYTHING on the hope of the resurrection? That’s my question… “what if we staked everything this life has to offer on the hope of the resurrection?” What if we lived in such a way that would communicate to people that we count all as loss, in order that we might gain Christ? And what if we stopped making excuses for why we don’t live like this?
Again, I don’t know what this looks like, and I know it’s not wrong to enjoy this world, but I also know that scripture is clear that if we live for the joys and pleasures of this world, we will not see Christ in the next. What does it mean to really live a radical life for Christ? Why did Jesus command the rich young ruler to “sell all he had and give to the poor”? Why did Christ tell us that if we want to have him, then we have to “lose our lives”? I think that maybe David Platt is right. I think that maybe the american dream has invaded our lives, and I think that when people like me, begin to say things like this, that it makes others around us begin to feel their “love for the world” really being exposed.
I don’t know what this all means, and I know that I will need my church to figure it out, and I invite you to help me also, but I would caution you against letting the guilty feeling in you compel you to squelch this desire in someone else.