I am challenged by Sine’s statement, “Jesus really was an extremist in his whole life, and those of us who have decided to follow him need to consider becoming ‘extremists’ in our whole lives too” (225).  It’s so much more comfortable to be moderate.  But I don’t want to be a comfortable Christian.  Comfortable Christians have stopped moving forward; they grow stagnant and breed mosquitoes.  I want to be moving always forward, toward God.  If that means being extremist, or dare I say, radical, then I’ll have to figure out what that means for me.  But you better believe I’ll do it, and you better come alongside me, because it’ll be too hard to do by myself.

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In this chapter, Sine drives home the crux of his current argument about the good life and better future. In his concluding lines, he writes, “It is only in Jesus’ paradoxical teachings of forgetting about ourselves and caring for others that we will ever discover the good life that God has for us” (126). This is the part the church gets confused about: how do we live out that paradox in our current culture with our theological principles? It’s easy to take a back seat and make it all a mind-soul kind of deal, but Sine (and Claiborne, and others) pushes for the addition of the bodily aspect. When Jesus says, “do to the least of these,” he actually means DO, physically. I’ll be the first to say I’m way more comfortable with the mind-soul part. Throwing the body in there makes the Christian life suddenly…a little more radical?

Maybe that’s what I mean by God is doing something new and it’s going to be big. It’s going to take over the world. It is, I can feel it. Here’s an “ouch” moment for you: “in a Christian culture shopping for the cheapest grace, the temptation is always to tone things down a little bit” (318). We want people to feel more comfortable. But wait! Where does God say, “Be comfortable Christians?” No! I don’t want to be comfortable. I want to grow, move forward, be challenged, challenge others, meet God. Comfortable people settle. They stop moving. They become like standing water, and that breeds mosquitoes that suck your blood and leave gross, itchy bumps. No, I don’t want to be comfortable.

The challenge of radical Christianity is putting your faith into visible, active practices that affect change in the world, even if it’s just the world for your next-door neighbor: “They cared for people and put stagnant nominal Christianity to shame. They took tremendous risks to invite people to experience love, grace, and community” (100). Do people say that about us here at Fuller? Do people say that about people in our home churches? Maybe nominal Christianity isn’t just in the South.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bonhoeffer since reading Claiborne’s book. He talks about the cost of discipleship in pretty challenging terms, and then he goes out and gets executed for living it out. Claiborne writes, “The temptation we face is to compromise the cost of discipleship, and in the process, the Christian identity can get lost” (105). We just looked together at all those articles in Fandom that kept reminding us how malleable our identities are, how susceptible we are to being defined in terms of our culture and media experiences. How quickly we fall into cheap grace.

And here’s a side note: I finish my degree in the fall, and I don’t know what’s next. Claiborne told people he was “more interested in who I am becoming” than in what he would do/be. He quotes Mother Theresa: “Do not worry about your career. Concern yourself with your vocation, and that is to be lovers of Jesus” (108). But I wonder if I’m brave enough for that.