Radical Grace…or the Grace to be Radical

In my studies, I have learned a lot about the cultural and p0litical conditions of the early church. Here these believers were, in the middle of the most powerful empire in the world, attempting to live by the values of a fledgling faith which pushed them to the very borders of the socio-political structure. They risked becoming outcasts, losing friends, losing work, losing land, and later losing their lives to hold to these values.  The challenge that St. Paul described to transformation in many of his epistles was not simply an inward call.  To be a true Christian demanded every aspect of one’s known life.

Today, we face very similar problems that plagued the early Christians: our society is dominated by values that are not consistent with the Gospel. We are surrounded by bloodlust, greed, abuse of power, and sexual temptation. The culture that surrounds us convinces us that these things are simply part of everyday life because it endorses and encourages them, thus trying to convince us that they are normal. We live in the modern day Roman Empire.

Yet somehow the call to press against this tide is muted by the two thousand years that have separated us from the early Christians. While it is no less relevant, the lines between a Christian lifestyle and the Empirical Culture are blurred by the different context and the backdrop of theological controversy which has been associated with the Christian name. Being Christian, at first impression, usually isn’t about following Gospel values, but rather is about a particular political alignment. In addition, the patterns of everyday life in America has become cemented by the machines that keep it thriving. The convenience factor plays a large part in this, but so does the media. So does the “do-everything, be-everything, have-everything” message with which we are constantly bombarded.

Yet being Christian still means the same thing as it did 2,000 years ago. It means that to follow Christ we must have the courage to swim upstream. We must be open to God’s grace within us, and to follow where that Spirit asks us to go. It means living expansively, not inwardly. It means finding community instead of building fences. It means seeing a brother and sister in each person, someone made by the same God to whom we pray in our nightly prayers. It means being an example by our very lives, which comes as a result of this rejection of “the norm.”

Of course, this is done each within the context of one’s personal vocation and call by God. But one thing is certain: to truly be Christian, we must be willing to let this radical grace transform us from the inside out.

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