The Good Kind of Radicalization
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It seems like an easy question to answer, and Simon Peter certainly answered it correctly. His response was: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
I can’t say whether or not this was your experience but I remember cramming for exams. I’d study diligently, packing into my brain anything I thought might be a potential question to which I could, hopefully, deliver an adequate response. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. It worked enough times to guarantee graduation. The issue always was: How much actually stayed in my long-term memory after I pounded it into my short-term one?
Having the right answer when the question is asked is important. But what is even more important is whether or not the right answer has a lasting impact on one’s life.
Many of us can answer correctly the question that Jesus asked His disciples. Many of us can even answer the question correctly every time it is asked over the course of our lifetimes. But the real test is whether or not the answer has made any significant change in our lives.
Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If you and I say that in response to the Lord’s question, “Who do you say I am?” exactly what do we mean? We have the right answer but what difference does it make?
I am re-reading David Platt’s book, Radical. Though I read this statement several days ago it remains stuck in my head: “…we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all” (pg. 73). In other words, we love to claim all the promises in Scripture, but are prone to ignore the commands in the Scripture that aren’t convenient.
But if I say that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and claim to be His follower, then I am obligated to embrace His commands as well as enjoy His promises.
There has been much in the news lately about the young men and women who somehow have been radicalized and are leaving Canada to join ISIS in places like Syria. Everyone is asking how such a thing is possible. How can a person brought up in the midst of freedom and privilege in this country, abandon it for oppression, deprivation, and death, in another? They believe. They believe in the cause because others have demonstrated that they really believe. They believe the promises. They accept the obligations—to the death. They believe they have found a reason for being.
The pity and the shame is that Jesus is the One who gives us the only reason for being that there is—and somehow that message hasn't come across as believable, perhaps because as those who claim to be believers we are not always the best examples of that truth. We say we believe. We would say that the cause is worthy. We claim the promises. But we don’t always accept the obligations. Because our lives don’t match the words we so glibly speak, we fail to demonstrate that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God and that “…in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
We become irrelevant to a generation seeking something, or someone, to believe in.
If I claim to believe that Jesus is the Son of the living God then I must not only enjoy the privileges that come with that relationship, but I must also accept the obligations.