When I began my journey into Christian higher education, I remember students talking about being a "radical Christian”. In the late 1970s, I wondered if being a radical Christian meant one subscribed to the Wittenberg Door and challenged Reformed theologians. Honestly, I enjoyed and found value in both. It did not seem incongruent to be reading Calvin’s Institutes, Jim Wallis’ latest article, excerpts from John Wesley’s journals, and a sermon by Gardener Taylor. Stumbling along a journey into pastoral ministry, I began to believe to live a “radical Christian life,” was a desire for and working toward a consistent Christian life.
Somehow a radical Christian can easily be defined how loud one raises one’s voice. Or engaging in actions that are self-comforting, finding one’s right fit with a political ideology, or just cause. What I have noticed about the aspiration toward consistency, it is really trying to be faithful in all things. When I read of the people who have given their all for Christ: Bonhoeffer, Amy Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, and so many unnoticed and unsung saints, they were Christians who sought to live a consistent and faithful life. This quests for consistency produces a faithful steadiness, and a clear vision of simply calling evil, evil and good, good, with no loyalty beyond Jesus Christ.
I remain conscious that inconsistency is a minute step from hypocrisy. Part of the fallen human condition to remove the speck while rationalizing the log. Rhetoric is cheap, while servanthood, relinquishment, and sacrifice are costly. It is really difficult to be a “radical Christian” in a world that worships idols that capture our gaze. When I want to live faithfully into what I find the most comfortable, inconvenient thoughts and then actions are set aside; placed in compartments and neglected until forgotten.
It is difficult to struggle with the reformation of the self. I contemplate Jesus words after the Sermon on Mount in Matthew 8, that “the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nest, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” And Mark 8, when Peter takes Jesus aside and tells him not to talk about His suffering and death. Wasn’t this journey about kicking the Romans out, and living lives of freedom and prosperity?
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