“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut— make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
“We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
Over the years within many Christian circles there has been this call to “radical” living. It’s as if many leaders think that to truly follow Jesus one must become something akin to a faith daredevil. I totally get the attraction to such messages. They are exciting and they tap into this desire that many of us have for adventure and feeling part of something bigger than ourselves.
Yet, they also create shame.
Most of us will never be in a position to be a “radical” for God. We have responsibilities that are important to keep. Responsibilities like marriages, children, jobs, and the like.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Doesn’t Jesus say that if we count those things as more important than him then we don’t deserve them? Dan, aren’t you trying walk back what Jesus is saying here and making it less challenging?”
That is a fantastic question. Honestly, this passage more than most has caused me heartburn over the years. Are we supposed to simply leave our families to do something radical for Jesus? What does it mean to not put our families in front of Jesus?
Two things that I think hold the key for me, particularly reading this translation of the text. First, there is the aspect of self-forgetfulness. When Peterson translates, “But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me,” he is translating the bit about “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” I have often struggled to put my arms around this idea of “losing” my life. To put it in terms of self-forgetfulness is so helpful. When practice self-forgetfulness we are freed up to be fully present in the lives of others.
Second, how does Jesus argue for the radical display of discipleship? Does say leave home and go to the mission field? Does he say become a martyr? No. He says, “Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance.” Would you like to read that in the NIV? Sure, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Jesus is calling us to what might be called, “radical ordinary kindness.”
What a key idea for us to consider. The call of Jesus on our lives is fundamentally a call to radical ordinary kindness.
How can you practice some radical ordinary kindness today? Leave a comment with some ideas!