A Radically Normal Life
By Chad West
We Christians want to change the world.
We feel as though it’s our calling, nay, our right to give this butt-ugly planet a makeover with our sterling religious principles. And I don’t disagree that the world is a mess. It’s an entire bottle of grape juice on an expensive white couch in your boss’s house. Your ex-boyfriend calling because he wants his Zeppelin album back when the serial killer is just about to walk past you unawares. A disaster of tremendous proportion with terrible consequences.
Problem is, no one can seem to agree about what that change should look like, or how to accomplish it.
Well, Jesus, people answer. And it’s a tight Sunday School answer, I’ll give you that. How can a religious-minded person of the haloed variety disagree when another Christian plays the Jesus card. You don’t, is what you do. You fold. …But, before I do that—at the risk of lightning to the face—I’ll ask you the question of what Jesus looks like.
I only ask because I hear so many varying views. Sometimes he’s cackling as he runs down the street with a posse of angels, cold-cocking the wicked, and other times he’s too busy telling his followers how to be happy and successful to bother with sin. He’s all about each man owning his weight in weapons and wiping out his enemies, or wiping the sweat off his brow after a long day of turning AK’s and scimitars into plowshares.
Exactly which Jesus do we want the world to look like?
The Problem of People
Then there’s the other people. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I’m not that big a fan of people. I mean, I like myself pretty well, and can occasionally stand people who are like me, as well as people who agree with my profundity as a general rule. But I don’t like you all that much. That’s kind of our thing as Americans—individuality. Heck, it’s kind of our thing as human beings. Even people who belong to the same group, with vastly similar beliefs—such as Christians—can’t seem to get along well enough to decide on a new color of carpet, let alone solving the puzzle of a complex society steeped in sin.
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
People like me want to make the world into people like me. We think it would be a better place where others had logical conversations and cared about whether their opinions were based on fact or low-rent rhetoric. We’d also be more civil than you jackholes. (Even now—even though I know I’m being sarcastic—that sounds like a grand place.) But, that’s how deluded I am in sin.
In reality, I flatter myself. It would truly be a world full of neurotic, apologizing citizens who would rather read a book or watch a cartoon than interact with one another. Fixing potholes would get put off until tomorrow, school would be mostly art classes with no sports or math, and the world would be ruled by a counsel of gingers who were too polite to disagree with one another. Chaos.
That’s you too, by the way. So there’s no wonder we can’t change the world. We may all look at ourselves, and the crowd of heads nodding in agreement that we’ve surrounded ourselves with, as stable people with good ideas. But as good as those ideas may be, they’ll be forever tainted with our self-righteousness, indecision, and anxiety over what those nodding heads will think of us if we go against the grain even once. We can’t even implement God’s good and loving laws without corrupting them with our agendas, selfishness, and arrogance.
So, how do we change the world? Good question.
Living a Radically Normal Life
Maybe we let Jesus speak for himself. Tell us who he is. Jesus talked about loving our neighbors, and our enemies. His disciples learned to think of the needs of others as just as important as theirs. There was talk of giving with no expectation of return. Not showing preference to the rich or powerful, but treating everyone as equals. He even died for the ungodly, offering his righteousness to his unrighteous enemies (us).
I feel guilty because I’m not a missionary or whatever. But it could be that what I do every day, keeping in mind what Jesus and his followers did and said, I’m doing my part in changing the world. If I faithfully care for those God puts in my daily life, do my job as if I were working for God, and treat my enemies like dear friends, I will have the opportunity to share the good news—Christ for the sinner. Sinners like me.
I’m not trying to do the impossible task of making heaven on earth by passing laws to adjust the behaviors of all to my liking, but I’m living out the love of Jesus. In the job I have, in the town in which I live, among the people I naturally encounter, I reach out to the needy, the hurting, the poor, the lonely, and the angry with the love of God. Speaking it is finished into the lives of all who will listen. That’s the mission.