Jesus was a radical in the truest sense of the word. Once he started his ministry work, he lived only for his mission: nothing else mattered.
But being radical and being fanatical are two different things. Jesus was never fanatical. A fanatical Christian is not only highly ineffectual as a Christian but also not really a Christian. A fanatical Christian has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road to becoming a Christian and morphed instead into a parody of Jesus. The main difference between a radical Christian and a fanatical Christian is that radical Christians are inspired by God’s Spirit, whereas fanatical Christians are not. No genuine Christian forces Christianity down people’s throats or brags about his or her spiritual accomplishments. Jesus NEVER forced God’s Word down people’s throats and he never bragged about his accomplishments. We’re to follow Jesus’ example.
The main problem with fanatical Christians (besides their being annoying to Christians and non-Christians alike) is that they form a barrier to belief. Having been an atheist, I know how loathsome Christianity is to someone who either hates God or doesn’t believe he exists. Fanatical Christians only make this situation worse. Nothing was more contemptible to me, as an atheist, than televangelists or stadium preachers fleecing their gullible flocks. But being an atheist, I didn’t make the effort to distinguish between these kinds of Christians (the fleecers and the fleeced) and any other kind of Christian: I lumped them all together and so dismissed Christianity as a scam.
This is how fanatical Christians are dangerous – not because they physically threaten anyone, but because they misrepresent Christianity to unbelievers. As Paul would say, they preach another gospel. Even as an atheist, I could smell the BS coming off televangelists and was mystified at how anyone could fall for their lies. The same stench comes off soapbox preachers who crash gay pride parades and try to ram Christianity down people’s throats. Yes, people attending these events clearly need to hear the Word, but forcing them to hear it when they are not receptive to it will only ensure that they won’t hear it.
Being radical has nothing to do with fanaticism. During his ministry years, Jesus was radical in that he was totally focused on his goal. He taught only those who wanted to learn, just as he healed only those who came to him for healing. He believed in God, he believed in his role as the Messiah, and he believed in his mission to teach and preach the Word. We need to be like Jesus, in that we need to live our lives as if we actually believe in God, as if we actually believe in our role as a follower of Jesus, and as if we actually believe in our mission to teach and preach the Word. We need to become radicals like Jesus, and in becoming radicals, we will become highly effectual Christians who bear lasting fruit.
How do we become and remain radical Christians without becoming fanatics?
- Teach and preach only to those who are open to hearing. Pray privately for those who don’t want to hear. My grandmother prayed for me for 36 years until her prayers were answered. Never give up on anyone.
- Live every day as if it’s your last because one day it will be. Never put off doing today what you know you should be doing. Jesus warned us always to be ready to leave this Earth and to face God knowing we have done God’s will to the best of our ability. When our time is up, it’s up, and what we’ve left undone will be forever left undone. Most importantly of all, never delay choosing to forgive, even (and especially) if you don’t feel like forgiving. Just do it anyway. Trust me – you do not want to stand before God on Judgement Day with unforgiveness in your heart. Unforgiveness is the same as unrepented sin, and unrepented sin will keep you out of Heaven. You have the power and ability NOW to choose to forgive, so choose it. Always choose to forgive.
- Make Jesus your best friend and God your Father. When you have a problem, take it to them. If you need healing, go to them. Celebrate your victories and joys with them and take their advice always. And if you slip up and need to be corrected, accept their correction; don’t fight against it or resent it.
- Make sure that your knowledge comes from God and God only, through his Spirit. Test your inspiration against scripture. It should always hold up and be supported by multiple instances in scripture, not just a single line.
- Remember that Jesus preached in parables to those who were not believers but spoke plainly to those who were. Throwing scriptural references at unbelievers accomplishes nothing good. Instead, feed unbelievers with stories that show them the way. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what we’re to do also.
- Never give up, but don’t push yourself so hard that you burn out. Rest is as important as work. We don’t have to rest on any one particular day, but taking a day off once a week is a good rule of thumb. Jesus worked when he needed to work and rested when he needed to rest. His rest times were his sabbaths. You’re not a hero if you overwork yourself; you’re very much the opposite. God will show you when to work and when to rest. Listen to him. If he advises to take Sunday off, take Sunday off. If he says it’s OK to work through Sunday (like Jesus did), then work through Sunday and take another day off: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. Don’t get hung up on legalism. Follow Jesus’ example in everything you do, and you’ll be fine.