This will be my first "Radical Response" post as I comment on the things I'm learning during the Radical Read-Along. If this, or future Radical posts seem to ramble, my apologies up front - I am all kinda of overwhelmed by what I'm reading and am having a hard time processing it.
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"The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response.” (Radical, page 20)
I remember the first time I started feeling "uneasy" about the American brand of Christianity. I was in the beginning of my Sophomore year of college and had just read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I felt a sense of relief that I was not the only one who thought that American Christianity was somehow missing something incredibly important. I began to cautiously mention my feelings to my peers and was surprised to find that a number of them felt the same kind of discontent with the shallow, self-indulgent, feel-good Christianity we had grown up with. But for the most part, there was a whole lot of discussion between us and not a whole lot of action.
Fast forward seven years to the present and it seems that very little has changed in my life. I am still discussing what it really means to be a Christ-follower, but not doing a whole lot of following after Christ (turns out the word "following" is an action verb that indicates doing). There have been little glimmers of action, but nothing extreme, nothing that would indicate radical abandon and obedience to Christ. In the last few months however, I feel like the call to action is becoming more and more overwhelming. I feel more and more uncomfortable with the comfortable life I'm accustomed to.
Now I am, once again, at a crossroad with one sign reading "Self" and the other "Christ." If I choose "Self," I will continue to live a comfortable, self-preserving spin on Christianity and I am certain that I will never make the kind of difference in the world that Christ called those who followed after him to make.
If I choose "Christ," I will undoubtedly find myself desperately clinging to the promise that while those who follow after Christ will face difficulties in this world, they will find their treasure in heaven. I don't think until this moment, I have really understood how much faith that takes. To be willing to give up everything in this life based on faith that there is something better in eternity, in a place I can never comprehend until I'm there, takes far more faith then I've ever thought possible. I'm understanding now why Paul said, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor 15:19). If Christ's claims, which Christians profess to believe, are true however, then no response other than radical abandon seems appropriate.
I am tired of discussion. I am tried of trying to rationalize Jesus' word to fit my own comforts. But at this point, I am also scared of what action in my life will look like. I am stuck in a very uncomfortable limbo right now - I'm uncomfortable with not doing and I'm uncomfortable with doing.
But limbo indicates inaction, and I do not want to sit in that rut again.
As I look back at the last seven years, I can't say that I haven't done anything; that there haven't been some changes in my life, because there certainly have been. I don't feel like I've done enough however, and while I probably haven't, I had to ask myself why I felt that way. The first thing that popped in my head was, "Because I haven't felt like I've really sacrificed anything." The theology behind this statement made me pause. I thought back on all the ways that God has moved in my heart over the past seven years and the things he's called me to give up. I realized that giving up those things never really felt like a sacrifice because I had joy as I "gave up" things for God out of love and obedience to Him.
Certainly I can give up more for Christ, but I don't think that I should base my "enough" meter on whether or not I feel like I've sacrificed. I believe this mindset has the potential to cross a dangerous line into feeling prideful and into an attitude of "look at how much I gave up for Christ" self-martyrdom.
As I process what I'm reading in scripture and what I'm reading in Radical, I'm realizing that much of my fear in truly following Christ is the fear that I will be miserable and that if I'm not miserable then I must not be following him hard enough. These two warring thoughts make me, well, miserable. Instead of beating myself up however, I think I need to realize that when I am doing what Christ called me to do, it shouldn't necessarily feel like a sacrifice- it is a joyful thing. Even though it might seem crazy and difficult and cause me to give up things and take a whole lot of faith to sacrifice for Christ, it brings joy. This is an encouraging and much-less-scary thought as I enter into this Radical journey.
The crux of the matter, for me, is that I am far too easily distracted by things that bring me joy based on the world's standards and not focused enough on pursuing the kind of joy that Christ promises. This quote from Radical sums it up nicely:
"If Jesus is who he said he is and if his promises are as rewarding as the Bible claim they are, then we may discover that satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what culture deems most important but in a radical abandonment to Jesus." (page 3)