The most radical thing you can do

How can we say we don’t live in a crazy world? How can we look around us and think that there is no crisis facing humanity? When some of the world’s most lucrative businesses continue to be the trafficking of drugs, weapons and humans, how can we say that we are advancing as a race?

Our response is typically fear. We get scared and take a protectionist stance. There is no mystery in this. When there is danger, your family comes first.

But as Christians, what do these troublesome times call for? It seems like, more and more, many circles call for a radical Christianity.

Unfortunately, the term “radical” has become flimsy and overused – and the main point gets lost in the hype and slogans. Christianity requires no marketing. It relies only on the Spirit.

Some believe radical means standing on a park bench and preaching God’s word. If the Spirit has led you to this, then you should obey. But it is not radical.

Some believe radical means holding prayer marathons and invoking the hand of God to descend from heaven to set things straight. If the Lord answers these prayers, then his will be done. But this is not radical.

Some believe that radical Christians give up all their worldly possessions and live on providence alone. They go to the farthest reaches of the earth to spread God’s word to every man, woman and child possible. They might even risk or give their lives for this mission. This is a response to a higher calling, but it is not radical.

Some believe that being radical is going out and serving the poorest of the poor – helping the outcasts and the lepers. This is noble, just and part of our responsibility, but it is not radical.

All these things can be ways in which God uses us, but they can also become idols where we secretly puff out our chests in pride for being good servants of the Lord.

The most radical thing a follower of Jesus can do is imitate and appeal to God’s greatest act of love.

Forgiveness.

Ask to be forgiven. Repent.

Have you asked God to forgive you? Have you recognized the sin that is destroying you? Have you asked God to pour his mercy out upon you? Have you repented?

This is radical.

Forgive.

Who has wronged you? Who has harmed you? Who annoys you? Which politician makes you red with rage? Do I rejoice when I see those I disagree with shamed… or do I ask God to give me a merciful heart?

Forgive them. Forgive them all as Christ did. Ask God to forgive them.

To forgive is to love. All other Christian activity is meaningless if we do not continuously strive to complete this most basic and essential task.

This is radical. It requires the most tremendous effort fulfilled only by God’s Spirit. When we forgive, we are truly Christ-like.

Go. Be a radical Christian. Forgive your parents, your brothers and sisters. Forgive your children. Forgive your enemies. Ask them to forgive you. Here you will see God’s great glory working upon you.

From this seed, all other acts of mercy and service receive their divine spark. From this love, your hungry soul receives life.

Love is patient

Image credit: © Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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(I cropped the image and added the text.)
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Excellence

Why are we not afraid? The human race implodes upon itself. We destroy ourselves, our families, our institutions, our nations and our planet. Yet there is no panic. We should be terrified. This is a great denial. This is a tremendous shame as we hide our head in the sand and expect our children and their children to clean up our mess.

Look around, look at the signs. Open your eyes and see, or even better, embrace reality. Things are going bad. So what do we do? Cry out in despair? Maybe there is no other answer, but instead, I say, we must show excellence.

I don’t mean perfection, but rather doing our best to improve our environment. We must look for every means to heal. The sickness of our planet is a manifestation of the sickness of our race. We must provide compassion in abundance. We must look to love as Christ loved. Only this radical response will change things concretely. We are infinitely limited in doing the “right thing”, but we might save everyone if we love enough.

If we rely on technology, science, elections and government to fix our problems then we will get what we deserve. But if we look to heal ourselves and our families we will consume less. The answer to a healed planet is a healed human heart.

So we look to Jesus for inspiration. He showed us the most excellent way. If we love enough we won’t spend so much on pills and drugs and booze and diversion and more things to fill the emptiness in our soul. We will be content with less since we will have everything. Go forth to your family, your work and your community and make amends. Be ready at all times with a kind word and compassion so that your loved ones do not look to the dollar to soothe their pain. Listen and hear them.

Let Jesus in to heal your pain as well. We can’t do it on our own. This is our failure and our shame. The arrogance to think we can solve all things without God, without faith. That’s the answer then… Be Excellent. Excellent in love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Cor 13)

Does this offend you?

When I was in my 20’s I got a tattoo. At the time my spirit kept silent as I lived completely for the flesh. I thought I was getting a cool dragon tattoo, but upon closer inspection you see that my dragon is wingless. It is more like a serpent which is fitting for the life I was living back then. Thankfully God looked past my foolishness.

Here in Buenos Aires piercings and tattoos decorate many faces and bodies. Personally, I reject such manipulations, but — ironically — that  is my flesh speaking again. How about these?

If these images cause you to react in a negative way, as they do to me, we should pause and ask, “Why?” Does seeing these persons stir compassion within me?  Do I judge by the outward appearance? Admittedly I do. I make a judgment and hold back mercy. In Jesus’ case, what did He do…

  • to the woman caught in adultery?
  • to the tax collector?
  • to the demoniacally possessed?
  • to the leper?
  • to the woman at the well with multiple men in her past?

Back in Jesus’ time these persons were impure and shunned to the point of inciting the desire, or even the obligation, to kill them in some cases. Even my comparison of this list of “sinners” to those who pierce and tattoo their bodies is discriminating and revealing. What did the Son of Man do?

He embraced  them. He visited them. He healed them. He forgave them. He loved them.

We as Christians are charged with a monumental commandment: to love. Instead we often pass judgment, and reserve love for those we see fit to love.  And what about those who pierce and tattoo themselves with pride, intolerance, impatience, indifference, selfishness or even cruelty? How many times have we thought, “He/she is hopeless?” To who? To God?

How do we expect someone to look past the external and into their heart if we ourselves are unwilling to do so?

When I see people like these on the street my first reaction is to reject them… but sometimes, out of God’s grace, He shows me a more excellent and compassionate way.