I went to my church’s Bible study last night. We’re going through the Gospel of Luke right now. The Bible study booklet was saying that Jesus was seeking to bring about radical change.
Several years ago, I was in another Bible study group. When this group was going through the Gospel of Luke, I said on more than one occasion that Jesus was radical. The group’s leader disagreed with me on that. He noted that Jesus was not some flagrant extremist, for Jesus ate with the Pharisees.
Similarly, last night, the question of whether or not Jesus was a radical came up in my church’s Bible study on Luke. Our booklet said that Jesus was one who was trying to bring about radical change. But a person in the group, whom I will call Bob (whose past comments I’ve written about here and here), did not agree with characterizing Jesus as a radical. He said that he did not think that Jesus tried to shove the truth down people’s approach, but rather offered them another way of looking at things, leaving it up to them to make up their own minds. He also said that the changes that Jesus makes are subtle, not radical.
I identified a lot with what Bob was saying. For one, it was a good counterbalance to one of the themes that I was hearing last night: that Luke was a slave (or so said Michael Card), and so we should be slaves to God. I’m sure that Bob believes that it’s important to keep Christ’s commandments, but he also highlights that God respects our free choice. Second, Bob’s statement that Jesus makes subtle rather than radical changes in our lives resonated with me, since I’m not exactly sure what “radical” change in my life I should be looking for, according to the religionists who use that term. I would like for there to be changes in me: for example, I’d like to be free from my resentment and less nervous. These are changes, but they’re a far cry from me selling all that I have and giving the proceeds to the poor, or me leaving my family.
I think that Jesus was radical, but also subtle and gentle (though, of course, there were times when he rebuked people). Establishing a community that did not privilege people according to their social class was radical, in that day and age. But being in that community entailed simply socializing with other people and showing them respect, which (while socializing is difficult for me) does not exactly strike me as some concept from tim-buk-too: it’s radical, but it exhorts us to do something that we can do. It entails a subtle change—-from elitism to seeing value in all kinds of people.