By Josie Child, PAX Producer
For many, to be ‘radical’ has become a shorthand for religious and political extremism. We have become accustomed to associating it with acts of terror and violence. As a result, we think of radicalism as some sort of evil brainwashing that leads to hate, mistrust, and intolerance.
Understandably, this has created a cloud of fear around the concept of holding uncompromising, deep-rooted beliefs.
But underneath this politicisation, what does it really mean to be radical?
It means to alter the fundamental nature of something, to depart from tradition. It means to push at the boundaries of the status quo, to refuse to accept something because ‘that’s the way it’s always been’. To be radical means to challenge yourself and others to pursue deep, essential transformation.
Jesus did all these things – and we should be doing them too.
I would like to suggest three ways that we can learn from the radical life of Jesus: His faith in God, His love for others, and His forgiveness of sin (anything that jeopardises our relationship with God).
Radical faith in God
Jesus trusted God completely. In John 8:28, we learn that He was confident in His mission and knew that God was always with Him. In His darkest hour, Jesus prayed ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). This total trust in God, rather than in His own strength or understanding, enabled Him to be obedient ‘to the point of death, even death of a cross’ (Philippians 2:8b). If we are to be radically obedient to the life that God calls us to, we need to put our trust fully in Him.
Radical love for others
Jesus loved others unconditionally. He sought out the poor, the sinners, and the outcasts, like the Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the woman caught in adultery. Instead of condemning them, He accepted and welcomed them. We see numerous examples throughout the Gospels of Jesus having pity on the sick and healing the blind. His grace, the undeserved favour of God, was for anyone who had faith in Him: ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:13). No matter who they were or what they had done, Jesus really loved people – and He challenges us to do the same.
Radical forgiveness of sin
It cost Jesus everything to bring us back into relationship with God. The cross is a demonstration of God’s perfect love: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). But the cross is also the fulfilment of God’s perfect justice: ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). Jesus’ willingness to die in our place is the most radical act of love and reconciliation that has ever been. Just as we have been forgiven, so we can learn to forgive others.
How should we respond to the radical life and teachings of Jesus?