I’ve been reading David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. In the context of having just gotten back from impoverished Nicaragua, this book has me really thinking about the US, our hedonism, and maybe, just maybe, the obsession with metrics in United Methodism. How much does our desire to be big in numbers align with Jesus?
Jesus was a small church pastor not a mega-church one! He pushed people into radical discipleship by making it difficult to be a follower, not easy. Remember Jesus’ words about “Foxes have holes… but the Son of Man has no place…” or “Take up a cross and follow me.” Church history tells us that for the first 400 years of the Church, an average of 1,000 Christians died every day for the faith. That is staggering!
Jesus, no doubt, ran off a few more people when he said things like “Sell all your possessions and give to the poor,” or “Eat my body and drink my blood.” Wow! Think how these phrases translate in our modern US context. Sell what you have and give it away, and Bite Me! It’s like what David Platt heard from his preaching professor, “Tonight my goal is to talk you out of following Jesus.” It is a scary thing to actually follow Jesus Christ. It is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart.
Think about this event from John Wesley’s life: “He had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a winter day and he noticed that she only had a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left. It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he had spent his money. He asked himself: “Will Thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?’”
What did Wesley do? He figured out how much he could live on without extravagance. When his income passed that level he gave the rest away. At one point Wesley was making over $160,000 a year in today’s dollars but he was living off the equivalent of $20,000. Amazing! How different would the world be if we did the same thing? How different would Nicaragua be? How different would the US be? Sounds radical and sounds like Jesus to me!