There have been so many books written about living the” radical” life. The word radical has become almost a catch word in the contemporary church. But I came across a book this week that takes on a different perspective. I wanted to share this with you to see what your thoughts were.
Josh Kelley writes:
“So many of us have a deep-seated fear that we have to choose—do we want to be obsessive Christians who don’t enjoy this life, or do we want to be complacent Christians who have a lot of fun here? We feel as if those are our only two options. Should we give up football, sell all of our possessions, and become missionaries to India? Or should we have nice houses, be well liked, and climb the corporate ladder? We know those aren’t really the only options, but we’re still haunted by the feeling that God must be happier when we read our Bibles than when we watch football. I wonder how many Christians remain lukewarm primarily because they think that being on fire would be miserable.
As we journey along the path of our Christian life, we hear sermons and read books that warn us about a dangerous cliff called complacency. And for good reason—the distractions of this life are constantly pulling us away from God. But I’m becoming more and more aware of another cliff on the other side of the path. That cliff is called obsession, and it’s just as dangerous as complacency. Obsession isn’t about loving Jesus, but trying to look like a really good Christian.
In our human sinfulness, we tend to be proud of our obsessiveness or to excuse our complacency. But the life that God desires isn’t found at either extreme. Wholehearted devotion to God consists of radical obedience lived out in surprisingly normal, joy-filled ways. This is what I mean by being radically normal. It’s the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.”
The author started out this book talking about his love for Starbucks and how he even writes his sermons there. When I read that, it made me think about our circle of influence. When he is at Starbucks writing his sermon, naturally someone there will notice what he is doing and perhaps start up a conversation. That could turn into a great witnessing conversation. My thoughts were that it is better for him to be there than sitting in his church office writing that sermon where no one will see him or engage in a conversation with him. Isolation is not always a good thing. When we read of radical living and giving up everything for God and a simpler life, there are great benefits from that but what if God has called someone to live within a nicer neighborhood and minister to those who are more affluent. Scripture teaches that it is hard for those who have financial means to come to God because of their sometimes love for money. Doesn’t he call others to minister to the rich as well and in order to receive an audience with them, perhaps living environmentally like them might be more beneficial.
Jesus went to where the people were. He prayed in seclusion often but that was usually after a day of long interaction with people. And these were people that were from the fringes of society sometimes and sometimes it was with the elite. So perhaps God may call some to live lives of little financial resources or means and others he may call to minister from within a framework of financial prosperity. It simply depends on how He chooses to use you and the audience to whom He calls you to minister.
But above all, we must not look at each other and begin to compare our levels of radical sacrifice and then place an evaluation of our godliness and that of others based on that criteria. That would be pride. Why can’t we live out our lives for God in the environment in which we find ourselves? Whether we are at the mall, a family reunion, playing games, at the movies, hanging out with friends or in our church worship services, we can still be on mission. We live missional lives within the context of our daily life. The question we should ask ourselves is whether we are being aware of God working around us and in the routines of our daily lives.
So complacency is harmful because we are missing God working all around us and we are distracted by our own goals and obsession is harmful because we may be alienating ourselves from the rest of the world and be losing our influence that we could be having and we may be letting our ‘sacrifice’ within that radical life to become a bragging point and a ruler by which we judge others. People need to know that we are approachable and struggle just as they do. It is hard to relate to someone who comes across as if they are spiritually superior to us in their daily walk.
Radical obedience lived out in normal everyday living. That has the potential for great ministry to take place.
Josh Kelley, Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2014).