Jesus Was Divisive and I Should Be Too
Ever since I read David Platt’s book Radical, and went through a Bible study that covers a lot of the concepts from the book, I’ve felt wracked with guilt. David talked about all those troubling things Jesus requires of his followers, stuff that is so insanely radical there’s no way we’d ever do that.
And it makes me feel like a fake Christian. Like I’m not a real follower of Christ unless I up and pack my bags and move to Africa. Or something like that. I felt ashamed and lukewarm and like I wasn’t good enough because wasn’t radical enough. David’s book and Bible study were marvelously effective and pointing out all the things wrong with my life, but they were an absolute failure when it came to teaching me how to respond realistically to those radical verses in the Gospel. In short, although he stressed over and over again that Christianity is about our hearts, not our actions, I still came away from the study feeling like I had to DO more to earn God’s favor. Not exactly the effect David Platt was looking for, I’m sure. In short, he did an excellent job of telling me all the things that are “wrong” and “unbiblical” about my lifestyle, but offered precious little advice about how to move forward applying these radical teachings of Jesus to my very ordinary, responsible, safe life.
Then I read a different take on Jesus’ commands to us, in this article. This guy, whose name is David Henson, also doesn’t shirk away from the idea that Jesus was asking these things of us literally, and not just figuratively. But he frames these things Jesus asks of us—things like leaving our dead parents unburied to follow Him, things like realizing that following him means you and your family may very well have a falling out (to say the least!!)—within a context of love. Our love for God ought to be so great that when we do things and be things in His name, the people around us think we’re off our rockers.
And even more than this, David H. puts forth the idea that the Gospel, by its very nature, is divisive. Say what?! Let me repeat that. The Gospel is divisive. It demands that we see God’s belovedness not just of ourselves, but of that coworker we just can’t stand to be around….that homeless man down the street….that hypocritical Christian we’d just love to hate. The Gospel demands that we remember we are no more worthy of His love than any other person alive, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. The Gospel requires that we fight prejudice and befriend the people that the rest of society has rejected. It demands that we live our lives in ways that confound the norms of our culture and our society, and go against every selfish desire that we have. It demands an allegiance to God that is so fierce, so all-consuming and powerful, that no other relationship in this world can come close to it.
And dang—that’s divisive. But it’s a love that I want. It’s a love that I know, beyond a shadow of doubt, would infuse my life with meaning and purpose, a love that would not be afraid to challenge the status quo, but instead to embrace that change in a life that is lost in servitude and friendship to a loving Father.
To conclude, here is one quote from the article that sums up its message so poignantly. It serves as a great reminder of why we follow God in the first place:
“But this love, God’s love, our gospel tells us today, is more likely to bring us stress and division rather than peace and harmony. And this is Good News. Because God’s love is inclusive enough and wide enough to upset those who want to limit love to a chosen few who follow a few cherry-picked and misconstrued rules and regulations about beliefs, about sexuality, about politics.”
Here’s a link to the article. It’s really, really worth a read!!