As the saying goes, what once was spectacular will eventually come to be expected…
In the history of Christianity however, it has been the opposite: what once was expected has now come to be spectacular.
I’m reading this incredible book that I read back in college, and there was one thought that has bothered me so much over the past few days that I felt the need to share it (I’ll mix in a few ideas here). When I was first learning about what it meant to be a Christian I would go to different camps and conferences and church services. I remember at most of the camps I went to there was a time where they asked kids to raise their hands and come forward if they felt that God was calling them to “accept Jesus,’ or if they were ready to ‘be saved.’ Then there was another time usually where they would do the same thing for kids who felt ‘called to ministry.’ As if those two weren’t enough, often times they would have a night throughout the week at camp where a missionary from another culture would speak and they would ask if there was anyone who felt “called to missions work.”
I’m not sure where, how, or when this multi-layered view of God’s call developed, but the older I get and the more I study the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus, it seems to me that there is only one call… It is a calling of self-denial. It is a calling that says “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) It is a calling that boldly claims “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
Jesus did not say “believe in me and you get to go to heaven.” That’s a western, Americanized, evangelicalized cheap version of the Gospel. In fact, the requirements he laid down for those who would come after him were spectacular: “anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me… anyone who does not shoulder their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37-38) In other words, if a person did not exhibit complete self-denial and surrender, they were not ready to be one of his followers.
Simply put, the lifestyle that most of us consider ‘radical’ for Jesus was a minimum requirement. So what for us can be relegated to a specialized or specific call for people who want to be “radical” in following Jesus as far as giving their entire lives to “ministry” or “missions,” for Jesus was expected of all who would follow him.
It was to the whole church that Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
It was to the whole church that Jesus said “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
We have created a theology that accommodates apathy, disinterest, and compromise. What would happen if we began to expect the things that we now consider ‘radical’ of all Christians? What would happen if our minimum expectations for being a follower of Jesus were the same things that he asked of his disciples: to lay down their lives and follow him?
Every Christian is called to “ministry.”
Every Christian is ‘called’ to mission.
The radical minimum is complete surrender. The radical minimum is the one call of God on all Christians: the call to lay down your life at the feet of Jesus and to do whatever he asks.