In my last post, I posited the idea that Jesus called his disciples to a radical faith. Consequently, as Christ-followers, he also calls you and me to a radical faith. The verse I looked at last week was Matthew 5:20. A verse that can certainly serve as a hinge for all things radical when it comes to faith. And, as one person pointed out, and rightly so, love of enemies, going the extra mile, being peace makers, looking beyond ethnic limitations, etc., could all be examples of radical faith. But is there more to it than that?
Sunday afternoon, after posting the original blog, I saw my wife sitting on the front steps, her eyes closed, and deep in thought.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Just thinking about your blog,” she replied. Then she asked, “What exactly does it mean to have a radical faith?”
Since I wrote the blog, I suppose she thought I had an answer. But I didn’t. What might be a radical faith for some, would be labeled as mundane to others. So let me propose some questions:
- Does a radical faith mean some quantitative structure to reading the Bible?
- Does it mean having a “prayer closet” and using it?
- Does it mean we sell our possessions and go live among the poor and minister to them?
- Does it mean we present the “plan of salvation” to every person we come in contact with during the day?
- Does it mean I submit always, in every situation where there may be conflict?
- Does it mean I don’t drink, chew, smoke, or hang out with folks that do?
- Does it mean I read only the KJV and view every other translation as anathema?
- Does it mean I have visions from God that give me insight to the Bible?
- Does it mean becoming a missionary, a pastor, a Bible teacher?
Seems like a reasonable list? The fact is, some things on that list are what many people would actually consider “radical faith.” I also contend some would think doing all the things on that list would constitute a radical faith.
Lest someone misunderstand my point, “doing” certain things can certainly be an expression of our faith, but it doesn’t define our faith.
For good or bad, looking at the big picture, Jesus might have been okay with the list I complied. Nevertheless, it seems he had more radical things in mind. Faith itself was one of them. Faith in him as the Messiah, the son of God. Committing to that understanding surely meant a changed life. We might call that conversion but it’s not a term Jesus used. He knew that if someone truly came to terms with who he was, they would come to terms with a life that reflected that belief.
For the disciples/Apostles, there was a bit more to it since they were privy to information other people, at that time, did not have. In fact, they were given keys to the kingdom. To them a responsibility was given to look beyond themselves, their Jewishness, and look to all people as candidates of the Kingdom of God. It was their responsibility to live the good news of Jesus! We can think of that simply in the terms of evangelism, but it seems that what Jesus had in mind was more than that. A changed life, through faith, would result in changed lives. That’s the good news! That’s new birth. That was the point Jesus was attempting to get across to Nicodemus. It wasn’t about religion. Nicodemus was ultra-religious. It wasn’t about good moral character. We can most rightly conclude that Nicodemus was a moral person. It was about believing in God’s son. Those who have the son, have life! And that belief would start a journey. It would start a new chapter. It would be a transfer from darkness to light.
So what do those kind of observations mean for someone who is a Christ-follower?
If I could be presumptuous enough to say; from Jesus’ perspective it seemed rather straightforward. He summed it up one time with the shema, The LORD God is God alone and we should love him with all our heart, our soul, our strength, and our mind. AND, we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Pretty tall order when you think about it. I suspect, if most of us could wrap our minds around those two concepts and conform our behavior to reflect them, we would go a long way toward living a radical faith. It may not be dressed in the same clothes the religious folks have come to expect, but it would be far and above better.
To go a step further, radical faith is very much like the two instances in Matthew’s gospel where the blind received their sight. In one instance, Jesus “sternly” warns them, “See that no one knows about this.” Yet, they immediately go out and tell anyway. How could they not? Their lives have been forever changed! Something similar is true in the second instance. Matthew simply tells us, “Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.” Here too, their lives were forever changed! From our perspective, the first instance might be considered radical faith, since they go and tell, but certainly not the second. Or so we might think. But the last two “followed him.”
Matthew also tells us about Peter’s math problem when it came to forgiveness. Jesus corrected Peter’s inability to multiply correctly with a simple lesson—there is no limit on the expectation to forgive. As if that isn’t radical enough, Jesus elsewhere says if we don’t forgive there’s little chance that we will be forgiven. In addition, lest we forget, it was the crucified and dying Jesus who said “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Did Peter learn the lesson of forgiveness? Let’s look at his words; “For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” An “example” of what? Suffering, to be sure. But not just suffering. Jesus offers to all an example of what it means to forgive—even those we would consider unforgivable. That’s radical faith.
I could go on. The examples could be compelling and extensive.
Perhaps it’s best to simply say a radical faith is about being and becoming—not so much about doing. Our faith is a verb that expresses itself in how we live as a testimony to:
1) Our belief in the one who loves us and gave himself for us.
2) Our acceptance of grace although we may feel undeserving (hence, grace).
3) Our living a life that does not bring shame on the name of Christ.
4) And, the courage to take up our own cross of humiliation and shame and follow him.
It’s uncertain whether this will give any direction to my wife. But it does help me put things in perspective.
Scripture passages alluded to:
Deut. 6:4-5; Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 16:19, 6:15, 19:21, 9:27ff, 20:29ff; John 3, 3:36, 8:12; Acts 26:18; 1 John 5:12; 1 Peter 2:21.