In our current way of thinking, the term “radical” has adopted an unsavory note. It’s usually used to describe someone who’s gone off the religious deep end, or who’s pushing some kind of harmful or even anarchistic agenda. But in truth, something or someone is truly “radical” when it or they relates to or affects the fundamental nature of something, particularly to change it.
So you might say the theory that the earth revolves around the sun was once radical, in that it subverted man’s belief that the universe revolved around us at the time; similarly the idea that the earth itself is round, not flat, was radical when it was first postulated.
People, like theories, are called “radical” when they purport of a different ideology or belief than the norm, especially when they’re very passionate about it.
You know who was a true radical of his time?
In the last few years, I read a book describing Jesus—and his teachings—as radical. Not in the surfer/hippy/90’s-kid way, but as someone who shook up the fundamental order of his time. Jesus overhauled the way his entire culture related to basically everything—from hygiene to gender roles to interpersonal interactions to how they fellowshipped with God Himself. Jesus’ entire ministry was radical in every sense of the word.
The teachings he imparted to his followers were equally as radical as the things he did himself: like turning the other cheek, for example, in a Jewish society that until then operated on the basis of “an eye for an eye”; or loving your enemies and praying for them rather than holding a grudge. These were instructions to be followed by all those who claimed to be his disciples, and that made them ALL radicals in their time.
But in being radical, Jesus was just following in his Father’s footsteps; after all, God was the one who instructed the Israelites to live by a strict Law, a code of conduct that set their ways and behavior apart from the lands around them. Radical notions of consumption, conduct, and chastity had the very purpose of distinguishing God’s chosen people—setting them apart, rubbing against the grain of the norm. Showing a different way.
Nowadays, that’s on us to do. And in these dark days, you can certainly believe that when we follow the radical teachings of our great Teacher, people will take notice.
Think about how the radical love of Jesus can contrast with the culture around us today. When the social norm is to repay violence with violence or slight for slight, how much attention do you think we can gain for Christ by being loving instead of vengeful? Or when even our Christian denominational boundaries warn us not to reach out to those of different faith-based values, how radical would it be to break down those doctrinal barriers and love one another as children of the Living God?
What about respect? If we respected ourselves and others as beings created in the image of God with worth beyond measure—if we treated others as we want to be treated—how much of our society’s arguments over equality would be solved just like that? Just by following one simple command from Christ.
I could go on and on. The teachings of Jesus are not some archaic, Eastern-only concept which has no application to us today. Every culture of all time is hurting in its own way. Every generation needs a Jesus-revolution—an outpouring of radical love, radical wisdom, and radical change based on the truths he imparted from his Father.
I encourage you to do something radically Christ-like every day, in whatever your sphere of influence may be. See how much that radical love of Christ can change hearts and lives today, just as it did two thousand years ago.