As a high school student who loved things of this world, reading Radical was a jolting experience. It’s hard to overstate the impact that it had on my thinking. I’m grateful for how the Lord used it to grow my understanding of Scripture’s authoritative role in my life, and to confront the selfish pursuits I channeled so much time and energy toward.
Radical exposed me to the vast needs around the world. To be honest, I didn’t how to respond. After learning the dire state of much of the world, I suddenly struggled to rationalize the luxuries of my everyday life. I remember one Sunday afternoon in particular. Some friends wanted to go get snow cones. They cost $1.25. My conscience was so bothered by the thought of spending that money on myself and enjoying something. I couldn’t stop thinking about the suffering around the world.
Over the past decade, it’s become clearer to me what exactly Radical helped me to understand. Two main categories emerge, and neither of them have to do with snow cones.
First, Radical helped me to value everyday faithfulness to what God has called us to in Scripture.
The book isn’t asking the question, “Will I be a radical Christian, or just a normal Christian?” The question that confronted me was different: “Will I be faithful to what God requires of me in his Word?”
To simply sacrifice “luxuries” for the sake of alleviating my conscience was as misguided as it was short-lived. After all, the discipline died as soon as my zeal subsided. Nonetheless, something had fundamentally shifted in my mind. I realized that the command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-encompassing. It touches every part of life. Of course, God’s sovereign hand doesn’t guide all his children to identical earthly assignments. And yet, the fundamental call of radical, yet ordinary faithfulness is the same for every Christian.
An short-sighted response to a book like Radical will cultivate a quick-fix approach that prizes appearance over obedience. However, Isaiah 66:2 provides insight on where a faithful and obedient Christian life begins. It starts with a posture of humility and trembling—humility in recognizing our place before the God of heaven, and trembling with a right fear of him and a desire to please him with our lives. God doesn’t want mere behavior modification; he doesn’t delight in empty sacrifices. Instead, he wants hearts that rejoice over God’s grace to us in Christ and, as a result, are broken over sin and humble before him. This is real fuel for lasting obedience, for lives that look drastically different from the world in how they care for orphans, widows, and other overlooked image-bearers (James 1:27).
Second, Radical helped me understand my life to be a matter of stewardship.
If the main objective on earth is to glorify God and lead others to do the same, then we should approach life decisions seeking to determine how to best accomplish that goal with the resources entrusted to us. We’re told that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Everything God has given to us isn’t for us. We’re called to steward and leverage it all for eternal purposes. Left to ourselves, we’re about ourselves. And our culture fans these flames of entitlement and self-centeredness. But the radical love of our God should compel us to radical generosity with both our lives and our resources.
This doesn’t mean every Christian’s life will look the exact same. But every Christian will seek to follow Christ’s example, “who looked not only to his own interest, but also to the interest of others, . . . who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2).
Radical living is simply a normal response to a right understanding of the gospel. We love because we are loved (1 John 4:19). This reality should catapult us into an ever-increasing desire for obedience.
So, do you want to lead a radical life? Then feast on God’s Word and make much of the gospel. Your life will undoubtedly bear fruit as a result.