The radical call of Jesus

Radical ChurchWhile growing up in the church, I did not grasp the radical nature of Jesus as he encountered the world in which he lived.

We think that things are so much different today as compared to Jesus’ world. But are they? If the people of the Jesus’ world were alive today what would it look like?

Jesus would have gone to Wall Street or perhaps Washington, D. C. to recruit Matthew. James, John and Peter would have been found at the Union Hall, standing around the bed of a pickup truck with a cooler full of cold drinks. Jesus would have pulled Judas from an Ivy League business school.

Pharisees would be using conservative talk radio to get out their message of pulling yourself up by your theological and economic bootstraps. The Sadducees would be on NPR preaching their message of universal tolerance. The Zealots would be buying land in Idaho and arming themselves to prepare to overthrow the oppressive government. Name any other broad category of people inĀ  Jesus’ day and you can find a modern parallel.

The point is that Jesus called men from various backgrounds and pointed them all in a new and completely different direction.

In 21st Century America, we too often come to Jesus and add him to our current lifestyle rather than allow him to redirect our lives. Conservatives seek support for their economic policies in the Old Testament. Liberals seek support for their agenda from some of Jesus’ statements.

The Son of God is not a liberal or a conservative, he is not pro democracy nor is he a socialist. Jesus did not fit into any of the popular categories of his day, nor does he fit into the categories in ours. He defies the world’s categories and sets up one new one. We are either completely his or we are not.

Too often we Christians group ourselves into bodies based on our preferences that have nothing to do with the Gospel. We associate with people who look and act just like us. But look at the diversity in the first disciples of Jesus. For example, Matthew was a tax collector and a de facto supporter of Rome. Simon was a zealot who wanted to break the grip of Rome. Apart from Jesus, these two would be mortal enemies. But as a result of the call of Jesus, they lived and worked together.

Jesus was a radical. He did not fit into any of the categories of the world around him. If we are comfortable in any of the categories in our world then perhaps we’ve missed something in our understanding of Jesus’ call.