To many people in a certain circle of Christianity, the term “radical” has become a normal adjective to describe a movement of zealous Christ followers. In fact, it has become very much associated with David Platt (see his ministry Radical.net) and his passionate heart for missions. I remember reading Radical soon after it was published, and it had a definite affect upon me. It caused me to evaluate the waste in my life as it pertains to both home and global missions. David Platt now leads the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
As I’ve spent several years contemplating, studying, and evaluating this subject, I’ve come to believe that all radical Christianity should be considered normal Christianity. To follow Christ is not a normal thing in the eyes of the world. To the world, Jesus Christ is offensive. To the Jews He is a stumbling block and to the Greeks Jesus is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). To take up a cross and follow Christ is abnormal (Luke 9:23). To deny self is to swim up stream in our present culture. To love your enemies is a strange thing (Matt. 5:44). In order to become a radical Christian, you don’t have to sell your home and move to the jungles of South America and live in a hut for the rest of your life as you labor to reach unreached tribes with the gospel. It’s quite possible to be a radical Christian as a mail carrier or a mechanic in a small town in the heart of America. In short, radical Christianity should be considered normal, but it isn’t.
Radical Christian or “Normal” Christian?
As a Christian pastor, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the conversion of many different people. From housewives to homosexuals, I’ve seen Christ transform people’s lives. I’ve watched some people continue in their normal day-to-day jobs, but in the case of some, I’ve witnessed them move away to seminary in order to train for the ministry. Which one is radical and which one is normal?
Perhaps it depends on who you ask. Some people view radical Christianity only a small sect of sacrificial people who are willing to give it all away for the sake of God’s name among the nations. But, what about God’s name in the hearts of the young children who are being homeschooled by the stay-at-home mother? What about the man who works in the factory? What about the influence of Christian teachers in the public schools? Can they be radical Christians too?
I think it’s quite possible to be a radical Christian – no matter what circumstance or geographic location you find yourself in. It’s about a commitment to see Christ exalted among the nations – starting where you are and working outward from there to spread the gospel around the world. Not everyone is called to Africa or South America, but every Christian is called to follow Christ. To follow Christ, to take His Word seriously, to pattern your life after Christ, to love the church, and to spread His gospel to unbelievers is to be a normal Christian. Strangely enough, within the evangelical circles, normal Christianity is not considered radical, but in the eyes of the world what we consider normal is very much radical.
Follow the Language
In the world of politics, the politicians have an extremely difficult time dancing around certain issues. In American politics, one dance that’s very popular right now and has become increasingly popular since September 11th, 2001 is the dance of Islam. If you listen to politicians talk about Islam and terrorism, they often try to separate the two from one another. In fact, they do this by talking about Islam verses “radical” Islam. What the politician isn’t willing to do is make the obvious connection from the Qur’an to the terrorism of jihad. So, they talk about Islam and radical Islam. This is the typical safe route for the world of politics, but normal Islam is what we often refer to as radicalized Islamic terrorism – right?
As our American culture continues to become more secular each passing day, listen to the language of politicians closely. It will not be long before we will start to hear certain politicians make a distinction between Christianity and radical Christianity. The Christians who support the right for women to abort their unborn child under the banner of women’s rights will soon be labeled “normal” Christianity while those who assemble at Planned Parenthood protests will be denigrated as radical Christianity. It will not be long before we hear politicians and ordinary citizens using the term radical Christianity to describe those who oppose abortion, homosexuality, and various other sins that have become nothing more than normal choices in our secular culture. It will not be long before a factory worker in the heart of America is termed a radical Christian simply because he’s complementarian and has a bumper sticker on his truck that reads, “Abortion is Murder.”
Is it really radical Christianity to attend a protest to end baby murder in America? Should it be considered radical Christianity to oppose sexual immorality and the redefining of marriage? Follow the language and listen closely to the politicians. What will soon be called radical Christianity by our culture is nothing more than real, genuine, normal Christianity. Don’t strive to be radical – strive to be a normal follower of Christ. Soon enough, the world will see us as radical.