Have you ever scolded someone for being too radical? Maybe they’re young, idealistic and are making plans that you, in your years of experience, know will almost certainly fail. So you step in, clip their wings, giving them what you believe is a much-needed dose of reality.
“They’re so immature. So young,” you think to yourself, shaking your head as you remember your youthful radical years. You never had someone like yourself to help you avoid all the trouble and pain. Maybe it is your grandkids. Maybe it’s a younger co-worker who just graduated from school with all the grandiose ideas that sound great in a classroom, but you know will go down in flames in the real world.
Radical. It’s usually not good to be radical. Radicals often get themselves in trouble because they challenge the status quo. Here in the USA, we recently celebrated MLK Day, memorializing Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK said quite a lot, but often we focus on his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. What we don’t talk about nearly as much are his controversial statements. If MLK wasn’t controversial, if he wasn’t a radical, why was he assassinated? Scratch past the surface, and you’ll find MLK was a radical, and he paid for it with his life. So again, I say, in our society, it’s not considered good to be a radical.
Or is it? We can place radicals in a such a negative light, but should we? Above, I described how we can caricature radicals naïve. Sometimes we think of radicals as stupid. Sometimes we think of them as wrong. “Normal is good,” we say, “Radical is bad. Why do you have to be so idealistic? Just go with the flow.”
But is that the right way to think about radicals? Could it be that normal is bad, and radical is good? When we think about discipleship to Jesus, I wonder if we have normalized a low standard of discipleship, while at the same time redefining radical as abnormal. If Jesus is who he says he is, however, the Messiah, the Savior, God, the one who calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow him, then suddenly he is the radical.
After a week-long break, we continue our study of the life of Jesus, and we’ll discover that the religious leaders in his culture are desperate to redefine Jesus as a radical who needs to be eliminated from their system. But there’s a problem. He claims that he is God, and thus above their system. Can this possibly be true? What authority or evidence does Jesus have to prove that he is God, and that his call to all people to be his disciples, to be radicals, is the best way of life.
In other words, trouble is brewing for Jesus. Can he prove that he is who he said he was? Read John 5:31-47, see for yourself. Then join us on the blog tomorrow as we talk about it further.