Charles Colson tells the story of a judge, Bill Bontrager, who becomes a Christian and sees justice and mercy from an entirely different lens that radically altered his life. He took a stand for a young man who had committed crimes, but now needed a chance to make a new way of life. In the process, he lost his judgeship and his reputation. People who knew Bontrager described his situation by saying
“well, he’s just gone radical, that’s all.”
Hmmm. I’ve thought this thought too many times before. What would it look like for me if I “went radical?” What would it look like for our church, or our nation if a large number of Christians “went radical?” Colson mentions guys who brought about social change, like William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Colson wrote about contra mundrum–against the world. His time in prison made him see the world through the eyes of the powerless, he wrote on pg. 171. “God views society not through the princes of power, but through the eyes of the sick and needy, the oppressed and the downtrodden.”
Would going radical mean stepping away from the podium of power and pursuing downward mobility instead of upward mobility? Would we spend ourselves on the poor, as Isaiah 58 calls for, and begin to better identify with the outcasts and not the movers and shakers? Would I sit by a loner who smells and not with my friends?
Think of “powerful” people that you know, ones right around you. Are they powerful because they have money, sports talent, good looks or a charismatic personality? Do they hold a position of influence? Jesus announced to Pilot “My kingdom is not of this world,” and in doing so, took the stinger out of the bee. He didn’t cow down to their social games and influence, demonstrating to His disciples and to us that that’s how we should be: understanding that we are aliens and strangers and having an eye on a heavenly city. That’s when we find real power, like what the Apostles found in the book of Acts. They announced they would obey God and not man and would die for it, and the power of the Holy Spirit was so strong that when believers got together and prayed the building shook. Now that’s power!
Colson wrote on pg. 172
“The Christian who breaks radically with the power of the world is far from powerless–another kingdom paradox…If we would love God, we must love His justice and act upon it. We surrender the illusion of power and find it replaced by True Power.”
How do we break radically from the power of the world and of our culture?
There’s a song that runs through my head occasionally, “You don’t own me.” Money, possessions, social games and status–you don’t own me. Jesus does. My kingdom is not of this world. I should identify more with the poor and oppressed and not those who will make me look better because I’m with them.
I’m reading a book right now called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. He writes of how Jesus calls us away from earthly treasures, which are fleeting to heavenly treasures, which are eternal. I’m just scratching the surface of what he’s encouraging, and want to sink deep into it enough to really change me. Alcorn writes on pg. 19,
“The money God entrusts to us here on earth is eternal investment capital. Every day is an opportunity to buy up more shares in His kingdom. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.”
Radically breaking with the power of this world has to do with breaking from the hold that money, possessions and financial security has on us. It means spending our money on entirely different things than what the world does. Paul wrote in Philippians 3 that what he once considered gain, he know counts as loss. All of his accomplishments and things that brought him self esteem were now like a pile of dung to him in the face of kingdom things.
I don’t know why missionaries have to be our only role models when it comes to being radical. Why can’t we do it here by spending our time on the same kind of people Jesus spent his time with, and our money, and our resources? I don’t need to move to another place, I just need to put my eyes and heart in a different place. That’s taking a stand and making a statement to the world “You don’t own me. Jesus does.”