Radical – Do I have To?
Radical. That’s the title of the sermon series I’m preaching on Galatians. You don’t have to wade very far into that letter to understand why that title is appropriate. This is Paul at his youngest and greenest as we find him in the New Testament. It is his very first letter of the 13 that survive. And honestly, he lashes out like a tiger, taking on false teachers that are corrupting the gospel, even pronouncing curses on them. At one point, when he is talking about the “circumcision party,” he even expresses the wish that they slip with the knife and do some very unpleasant things to themselves.
Galatians is Radical. And it is here, Paul at his rawest, that some folks want to part company with words such as, “I don’t follow Paul; I follow Jesus.” Apparently, they imply, Jesus was less radical. Well… not if you actually read what he taught. It was Jesus who divided all humanity into two groups, the sheep and the goats, and pronounced that the goats would be judged and suffer God’s eternal wrath. It was Jesus who screamed at the esteemed religious leaders calling them snakes, a viper’s brood, a white-washed tomb that looked beautiful on the outside but inside was full of dead bones. It was Jesus who said that the way to destruction is wide, straight and easy and the way to salvation is narrow and hard. It was Jesus who said that whoever claims to be his follower but does not bear fruit will be chopped off and thrown into the fire.
Hmmm… He makes Paul look like a softie! Of course, Jesus also had wonderful, gentle, inviting things to say. And most of his harshest comments were reserved for the religious leaders who seemed more intent on keeping people out of God’s kingdom than inviting them in. But anyone who really, really reads the teachings of Jesus is going to be unsettled because Jesus was… a radical.
This makes me squirm. I want to be brave and true. I want to preach the word. But I’m not sure how “radical” I want to be, honestly. And I know I don’t want to be radical just for the sake of being shocking. Yet I talked to a woman Wednesday who was so excited. After she heard my “radical” sermon Sunday, she went and shared Christ with her neighbor—a first—and invited her to church. Radical.
Presbyterians don’t have a reputation for being very radical. And yet, Sunday morning, 38 folks in a Presbyterian church in Gig Harbor raised their hands to profess faith in Christ for the first time. That’s pretty radical. I want to be as radical as Christ calls me to be. Not a bit more or less. How about you!
Let’s get radical.