Radical or Regular?Posted: June 18, 2013
Does the Bible advocate a radically missional lifestyle or a quiet, peaceful one?
I’ve often been conflicted when reading of Paul’s exemplary life of self-sacrifice and single-minded focus on spreading the Gospel at any cost.
For example, Philippians 1:20 says: “it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
That life-or-death urgency that Paul brings can be discomforting to those who enjoy a quiet, peaceful life. In his book Radical, David Platt writes about that same idea, that:
“we were created for far more than a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. An idea that we were created to follow One who demands radical risk and promises radical reward.”
Perhaps that means traveling to a another country and getting involved in an NGO or attempting to do missions work in North Korea or Ethiopia. Perhaps it means moving into dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago and volunteering at a youth program. Is this every American Christian’s duty?
Yet in 1 Timothy 2:2 we’re told to pray for “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your affairs, and to work with your hands.
So, which is it? Are we supposed to radically risk our lives for the sake of gospel, or is it okay to pursue a quiet and peaceful life in the suburbs?
This debate has been heating up among evangelicals for a few months. Books like David Platt’s Radical, or Shane Claiborn’s Irresistible Revolution, or the intense sermons of Francis Chan push us more toward the radical lifestyle that shuns the comforts of a middle-class lifestyle. They suggest that the model of Paul and Jesus should move us to give away our wealth, and move into the ghettos to fight poverty.
At the same time, pushing back against this single-minded intensity, evangelical writer Matthew Lee Anderson argues that the radical lifestyle isn’t the only way to live faithfully:
“Discovering a radical faith may mean revisiting the ways in which faith can take shape in the mundane, sans intensifiers. It almost certainly means embracing the providence of God in our witness to the world.”
Echoing this message, Anthony Bradley at the Acton Institute’s blog, writes that “Radical” Christianity can be susceptible to both legalism and narcissism.
What if the radical life of missions in a foreign country is just a way to show that you are more committed than anyone else? What if your missions trip to Mexico was only done so you could avoid the shame of appearing like you’re not giving your life to Christ? What if it is, as Bradley says, it’s just “shamed-driven pressure to be awesome and extraordinary young adults” trying to make an immediate tangible difference in the world?
What do you think? Do you feel shame and guilt for not being “radical” enough? Do you think it’s possible to live a faithful Christian life in the suburbs?