This question was thrown to me over the weekend by a group of friends. I was able to defend myself and my faith but it inspired me to research more on the word “Radical” relating to “Christianity”. The word radical as applied to human behaviour, which can be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view. For the purpose of this post, we will define radical as “one expressing strict adherence to a world view that is at extreme odds with the cultural norm”.
If normal is in the middle, then a radical would be a person at either end of the spectrum. For example, Mother Teresa (God rests her soul) could be considered a radical in her extreme self-denial and ministry to the poorest of the poor. But Saddam Hussein, General Idiamin, General Sani Abacha, and other tyrants the world has ever known were also radicals in their violent enforcement of religious and political agenda. Both are considered extreme by societies as “normal”.
Whether or not Christians should be radicals depending on how the word is defined. Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to inflict terror, persecution, and genocide upon those with religious differences. That form of radicalism was never condoned by Jesus who was Himself a radical. His message of love, forgiveness, and mercy was at direct odds with the accepted views of the day. He refused to fight back when attacked to allow Peter to defend Him with violence (Mathew 26:51-52), or to condemn the woman caught in adultery (John 8:4-11). Those were all radical acts for that time and culture. One reason some people turned away from Christ was that His requirement of giving up everything for His sake was simply too radical (Luke 18:22-23).
The decision to follow Christ is itself a call to radical living. Jesus said that “anyone who wants to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23). The command is at extreme odds with our flesh’s desire to please itself (Roman’s 7:21-23). It challenges worldly wisdom, which preaches self-fulfilment as our highest aim (1 John 2:15-17). The cross is a radical symbol, and declaring Jesus as Lord of our lives involves a dethroning of self and a complete abandonment to His will. We must be willing to go where He leads, do what He says, and love Him more than life itself (Mathew 10:37-38). The lifestyle changes that follow such a commitment are considered radical by those who fall within the world’s definition of normal.
The antisocial atrocities that are often synonymous with radicalism are in direct opposition to radical Christianity. Those who incite violence and persecution in the name of Christ are not radicals at all, but enemies of the cross. Because following Jesus is in direct conflict with the “norm”, then “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phillipians 1:21) could be considered a radical way of life.
I challenge you today to live a radical life of obedience to the Bible instead of seeking to fit into our culture. It’s unfortunate that believing and following Christ is considered radical. It should be the normal way Christians should live everyday.