Last Sunday, my husband, Edric, preached a message on being RADICAL. He talked about how Christians, or people who choose to follow Jesus can be the very reason why others DON’T want Jesus. Christians have gotten such a bad reputation for being self-righteous hypocrites, inconsistent in their beliefs and practices, wearing Christianity like a badge that doesn’t really describe who they really are.
He asked, “Are we the reason why people don’t want to follow Jesus?” “Are we the reason why other Christians stumble, get discouraged, and lose faith?” “Are we the reason why our own family members, spouse or children reject Christianity?” What’s the solution? We need RADICAL Christianity! We need to be the reason why people want Jesus.
How do we do this? Edric used the passage in 1 Peter 2:11-12 as a challenge for all of us.
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11, 12 NASB)
First, we need to have the right perspective or paradigm. The apostle Peter reminds us that this world is not our permanent home, that we are “aliens and strangers,” people in transit.
When we recognize that we are merely passing through this earth then we will not become too comfortable. We will avoid assimilating ourselves so that we think, look, speak and act like everyone else. For example, do we use our words to bless and encourage others, or do we gossip, slander, or curse with our mouths? Do we choose to be positive during trials and when we encounter problems or do we become negative and bitter?
Second, Edric shared that radical Christians avoid sin at all costs. We need to do whatever it takes to safeguard ourselves against sin. He gave practical measures like practicing contentment, and sticking to our spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship or accountability (being in a small group), fasting, and giving (giving of time, talents, resources to serve God and others).
When we were young children, my parents used to teach us the principle of “feeding the white dog and starving the black dog.” Inside of us are two opposing natures — the flesh and the spirit. That tension will be there until the day we die. The only way we can overcome sin or the flesh is to turn our attention and energy towards growing in Christ. Instead of focusing on a list of things we aren’t supposed to do, we need to busy ourselves becoming more and more Christ-centered. The Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB) As we fix our eyes on Jesus, he gives us the power to live victoriously.
Next, Edric talked about the pursuit of 360 degree excellence. Do we look at all areas of our lives — from personal to marital to parenting to family to work to ministry — and evaluate whether we are complacent or continually improving and changing for the better? Sometimes, we can be good at work but deficient as spouses or parents. Or, our home life can be in order but our work life is suffering from mediocrity. 360 degree excellence is found in this verse, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NASB) In other words, do your best!
A good test of 360 degree excellence is to ask our spouse, children, parents, co-workers or boss how we can improve. Edric and I try to do this often with one another and with our children. It is not always easy because pride gets in the way, but being accountable to one another and being willing to change keeps our family relationships healthy. More importantly, we encourage each other to grow in Christ-likeness.
Lastly, Edric used the life of superstar athlete, Tim Tebow, as an example of excellence. He said that at the end of the day, excellence is not for personal gain, it is for the glory of God. This is the “why” behind being radical.
Tim Tebow was the youngest college football player to receive the Heisman Trophy Award when he was a sophomore. He was said to be one of the greatest college football players of all time. With such widespread popularity and influence, he has used his fame to draw attention to Jesus Christ. People who have heard of this guy and seen his interviews know without a doubt that he is a follower of Jesus. He is very vocal about what he believes in. And there is no dichotomy between his personal life and public persona. Besides being a phenomenal athlete, he is a good son, he has kept himself a virgin, and he is actively involved in overseas ministry work in the Philippines. (And yes, he was also a homeschooler growing up!) Read more about his life in his recently published memoir, Through My Eyes, a New York Times Best Seller.
As Edric ended his message, he shared a word of caution. He said that radical does not mean we become irrelevant — isolating ourselves from the world and becoming a bunch of legalists whom people cannot relate to. We need to be in the world but not of the world.
I also want to add that radical can be lonely. For example, as advocates of homeschooling, often perceived as a pretty radical way to raise and teach children, Edric and I sometimes feel like it is such an uphill “battle.” Sure, we are convinced that it is the best education and childhood our children could ever have, but other parents don’t always understand the heart behind homeschooling. At least, not initially.
Most of the time, parents watch other homeschoolers first or they just don’t care. Homeschooling is nowhere on their horizon. But, when they see the fruit and evidence of success in home schooled children, it makes them curious. They research, they ask questions, they attend orientations. At some point, God speaks to them and they hear it loud and clear — they get it. They get that the most important thing is to raise their children to know and love God and that homeschooling is the most effective way to do this.
People won’t always get the why behind radical, but nothing done for the glory of God goes to waste. The Bible says,Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9, NASB) So let us not lose heart when we pursue radical purity, radical cheerfulness, radical patience, radical holiness, etc…We may one day be the very reason why someone comes to Jesus! By your grace, Lord!