I teach one of the Adult Bible Classes at our church – right now we’re spending some time in the little book of Philemon. In the morning services I’m in a series that I’ve called What’s Right with Christians, because too often in our culture Christians have been blamed for many of the problems in society instead of seen as offering solutions. Sometimes the criticism is justified – but not always.
It was coincidental that both studies began on the same Sunday. Something that I didn’t realize when I began putting the studies together was that there is a common theme that runs through both teachings – it is the theme of the Radical Christian life.
In Philemon the Apostle Paul was asking Philemon to do something that was unheard of in the culture in which they lived. He was asking Philemon to forgive a thieving, runaway slave and to treat him, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. That meant no recriminations, no harsh treatment, and no revenge. Instead it meant forgiveness, grace and perhaps even freedom – at great personal (economic) lose. We can’t relate to that request in our culture today, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that it was radical. It was life-changing.
In our series What’s Right with Christians, one of the points that I’ve tried to make is that as Christians we have been called to live redemptive lives that change our cultures in positive, godly ways. That too is going to be radical if we do it right. It means replacing hate with love (Matthew 5:43-45); rejection with acceptance (here I’m talking about the acceptance of people as created in God’s image. Romans 2:11); falsehood with truth (Ephesians 4:15); comfort with suffering (James 2:14-17); and self-esteem with humility (Luke 14:11, 1 Peter 5:6). Can you imagine how radical it would be if every Christian lived like this? It might just change our culture.
The Apostle Paul was thinking this way when he wrote, I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). What Paul was saying was that he wasn’t here to live his life but the life of Christ. In fact he had destroyed all personal ambitions, desires, and goals for whatever Christ had for him. Pretty radical, don’t you think? Again, can you imagine how radical it would be if every Christian could say this and really mean it? There’s no question but that it would change our culture.
Think about this: God did the most radical thing in history when He came to earth to be born as a human. He’s not asking us to do anything that He was not willing to do. When lived correctly the Christian life will be radical – not weird, just radical. And it will turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). How great would that be!
Let’s get radical.
Stay in the Word