David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream has motivated many Christians to live more radical Christian lives. Over the last few years, I’ve heard more Christians become dissatisfied with accepting the norms and taking the easiest, most comfortable paths before them.
On the whole, this is positive. We need constant reminders that, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said on The Cost of Discipleship, when “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The call of Jesus is a radical call to a sacrificial, self-denying life.
But sometimes the call to a radical faith is misinterpreted and warped. Some people understand it to mean that one’s life has to be externally abnormal, like quitting one’s job and moving overseas or such things. The normal family life of many Christians appears to be risk-free and to sell the faith short.
I work with college students, so I often hear such sentiments from them. Some students, when they learn that Jesus demands radical trust in him, immediately think of living on the streets with the homeless or moving oversees to live and serve in small African village.
In other words, my students equate radical with exciting or unusual.
And this is easy to do. When we hear the stories of the people living near a dump in South America, serving the people who live there, we know that this is obviously following the call of God with radical faith. They are living a radical Christian life.
So Isn’t a Regular Life Unfaithful?
It is an easy step from this to believing that it is unfaithful to live a regular life. When compared with the person selling everything and moving to Africa, the normal life isn’t radical enough.
A parent working a 9-to-5 job in the U.S. to support his or her children is not radical. A stay-at-home mom isn’t living radically. The retiree spending a lot of time around their grandkids isn’t living radically.
But I think this is wrong. As I said above, people associate a radical life with an unusual or exciting life. But the unusualness or excitement of one’s life isn’t the measure of a radical faith in God. Many atheists have unusual and exciting lives. One cannot look at the working father, the stay-at-home mom, or the retiree and conclude that they are not living lives of radical faith.
The measure of radical faith is your willingness to follow what God is calling you to do. If God is calling you to the suburbs, then it is not radical faith to move to the third-world because you want more excitement. If God is calling you to the third-world, then it is not radical faith to stay in your U.S. job and safe neighborhood simply because you want more comforts.
God calls people to many different ways of serving in this world. And it is important that everyone plays the role that God has given them.
It is possible to have a (relatively) boring life and still live radically.
Two Biblical Examples
1. Work to give to the poor. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” There’s nothing in Paul’s comments that would lead me to think that he thought this life was second-rate.
2. Work to support missionaries, and so work together with them. 3 John teaches that when you support a missionary, you are partnering with them in the work. 3 John 5-8 says:
5Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7For they have gone out for the sake of the name,accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 5-8 ESV)
The awesome implications of this is that when we support missionaries, we are fellow workers with them. In a sense, we are working as missionaries when we work to support missionaries in the field.
Live Faithfully Wherever You Are
The stay-at-home mom’s life can be just as radically faithful as the overseas missionary. We shouldn’t judge what God has called others to do. Aim to grow in your knowledge of God so that you can know what is best, as Paul says at the beginning of the Epistle to the Philippians. Then radically live out whatever your calling is.
The church will be more helped by this than hordes of people trying to live exciting lives.
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