Myth: Christians are “Called” to Radicalism

It is easy to reason that a true disciple of Christ should sacrifice all comforts, abandon his/her life to the gospel and service to others, give away anything that is not a necessity, and pursue a life of radicalism, where “trust in God” gets you from one day to the next.

We get this notion from the radical beginnings of the first disciples and evangelists like Paul – many of whom traveled from place to place preaching the gospel until their death, and in most cases, martyrdom. While I do believe some are called to this type of commitment and sacrifice, I do not consider the first disciples to be representative of God’s will for every Christian – not even most. To assume that we are all to live such a life would also imply that:

  • Affluent Christians who give tremendously to hospitals, churches, schools, medical research, foreign aid, etc. are not “true” disciples, because having or building wealth (from which to give) contradicts the spirit of giving. 
  • Christians should never marry, for it would distract from complete devotion to the call of Christ and the furthering of the gospel. 
  • Christians should never bear children, for their responsibilities to the safety and health of the child would inhibit Christians from the unrestrained and insecure life of a true disciple. 
  • There is no proper career for the Christian outside of full-time ministry. And such being true, Christians should avoid working as teachers, firemen, politicians, doctors, lawyers, etc. 

Most people would agree that these are all pretty absurd, but they are the conclusions that people are pushed to when they feel they must do more to authenticate their faith. In the real world, we need God-minded people in our classrooms and in our government, heading large companies and small, entering lasting relationships and having children who are taught the principles of Christ’s teachings from day one. Unfortunately, the notion that our true Christian-ness is measured by how radical we are is what turns so many away from Christ, and often turns churches into arenas of competition.

I do believe that some are called to be single. Some are called to leave their homes and enter the mission field. Some are called to be pastors, prophets and evangelists. Such was the case with Paul and the disciples, and such is the case with some Christians today. But to whom did Paul preach? Where are the other believers who believed Christ’s message and followed him, but who aren’t mentioned in the Bible? Where are the 5000 who were miraculously fed, and the 3000 who were baptized and “added to their number” on the day of Pentecost? Why don’t we hear more about them? I’m sure that many of them went on to do what we would rate as significant things – but what of those that didn’t? Was their salvation inauthentic; baptism insincere? Of course this wasn’t the case. They became the worlds first Christians, and while their values and priorities had been radically changed, they still went back home to their own lives as mothers, fathers and friends; carpenters, shepherds and soldiers.

What we are called to is a life of independence from the fears and demands of this world. One in which our security and peace of mind is found in the knowledge that God is our father, keeper and provider. We are called to live responsibly and be good stewards of our resources – our talents, intellect, finances, etc. – and to take care of one another, easing the burdens of the suffering, and holding accountability toward those who are comfortable. God does not call every Christian to peace and financial prosperity, nor does he call every Christian to suffering. He calls every Christian to relationship, and through that intimate friendship he makes his will known.

1 Comment

  1. Wesley,

    I don’t think this is a myth at all. If you actually read the Gospels, you will find that the message of Christ’s teachings are FAR more radical and unreasonable than most people accept. [Like Thomas Jefferson, I find very little in the didactic portion of the New Testament to be useful outside of its first century context.]

    Whether you consider Jesus teachings to be factual or utopian, what you have described above bears no resemblance to his teachings. As Jesus notes, being nice to people and giving to those who deserve it is no great claim – even “the heathens” do that. He taught a fairly unconventional approach which included not taking the revenge we were due, giving freely to those who had oppressed and enslaved us, and showing generosity to those who LEAST deserve it.

    I agree that not everyone is destined for the ministry (I spent a few years there myself) or remaining single or being poor. However, de-radicalizing Jesus’ teachings fundamentally eliminates any difference between him and the Godly, moral, responsible people who had him nailed to a tree.

    Best regards.

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