What if being a Christian really cost something? What would the First World church look like if living our faith meant losing friends, family, property, livelihood, reputation? How many of us would sign up for that kind of journey? What if being a Christian was dangerous?
It would be nothing like what we see in most churches today. Christianity has long been the conformist, respectable religion of Western society. It was the safe choice. The get-ahead choice. The don’t-get-burned-at-the-stake choice. Far more dangerous to question the official religion than to play along.
The toxic combination of religious symbols and state power has fundamentally warped the witness of the Christian faith. It’s fair to wonder whether the radical, joyful roots of the faith could ever be recovered. Yet, throughout history, we witness movements that rise up and profoundly challenge the false gods of Empire. Like weeds pushing their way through the cracks in the concrete, the seeds of the Kingdom rise up even in the midst of overwhelming falsehood and violence.
Breaking concrete takes a lot of effort. It’s easy to mouth pretty words about glory and a far-off heaven. It’s a lot harder to live a life transformed by the power of God. It’s no big deal to participate in religious rituals – whether sermons and lectures, communions and baptisms, or presidential inaugurations and Veteran’s Day celebrations. Being a person of faith doesn’t have to cost anything. Bending a knee to the official ideology always pays tidy dividends.
Such public religiosity has little to do with the living way of Jesus. Despite all we’ve heard about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the life of discipleship will not be limited to personal piety. For those of us who have been called to follow Jesus, we discover a profoundly risky path. Friends of Jesus can no longer go along with the status quo. Despite the trembling terror of it, we have been called to speak truth to power. To reveal the strength of God in our weakness. If necessary, to have our own bodies thrown upon the gears of oppression.
This is the heart of the gospel. For us who have experienced the radical presence of Jesus Christ, we can no longer be conformed to the assumptions of the culture around us. Even if that culture claims to be Christian.
It’s no accident the early followers of Jesus were called blasphemers by Jewish traditionalists, and atheists by the Roman Empire. Authentic Christianity challenges the civil religion of the ruling authorities. It reveals the moral emptiness of the false piety of empty rituals and go-along-to-get-along religion. The way of Jesus is profoundly prophetic – so much so, that we may be mistaken for heretics and insurrectionists. This is par for the course.
But what do you say? Are you ready for a faith that has nothing to do with providing easy answers? Are you ready for a Jesus who, rather than propping up the assumptions and authorities of our culture, is here to knock the mighty off their thrones, to lift up the weak and poor?
Do you have the courage to embrace this dangerous Christianity, to walk in the prophetic way of Jesus? What are you prepared to lose?