What does a revolutionary Christian look like? My answer:
Simple and unglamorous.
What? That doesn’t inspire you to march full steam ahead in to the world of revolution? We like to talk about the church and the Christian life with flashy, awe-inspiring words like “revolutionary” and “radical.” The story goes these days that if we are not adamantly working toward a cutting-edge, church-altering, Copernicum revolution in our personal lives and in our church community, then we will all be sitting in the sand waving with sad faces at the church that once was but is no more.
Jesus was a revolutionary, no doubt. The Christian faith takes radical obedience, no doubt. And some who use these kinds of words do so with the best of intentions and make helpful points. Surely we are to be markedly different than the world. Surely we are to speak and act in ways that would seem revolutionary to those outside the church. Plus, there are, for certain, some important correctives that need to be heard for the church and for our personal lives.
But that is not typically what is meant when these words are used by some to describe their perceived 21st century Christian mandate. The very things that I see as truly radical are now considered by many to be boring and ineffective means to win people and grow in faith. You know, things like going to Sunday School, reading your Bible everyday, going on a church mission trip, and trying to get closer to Jesus. We are told to put those ol’ traditional “churchy” things aside and instead focus on “re-inventing” the church, talk about “spiritual things” but maintain a distaste for “religion”, use the words “community” and “dialogue” in every sentence, make fun of the institutional church and organized religion, apologize for all the disastrous mistakes the church has made over the years (those idiots of the past, we are so much smarter than they were), create new and appealing theology, and by all means, be holding a cup of latte or mocha in your hands sitting in the white, middle aged dominated Starbucks while discussing the necessity for racial diversity in the church.
It is ironic that we look to Jesus as the ultimate revolutionary and talk about embracing his mode of revolution as our own. But we talk about the revolution in terms of making people happy with Jesus and happy with the church. Jesus’ brand of revolution ultimately left him with a mob of angry “followers” demanding he be crucified. Only 11 were left to build the church (12 after Matthias was added). If we really want to be revolutionaries as Jesus was, then let’s speak the truth clearly and cling tight to the things Jesus believed (for example, hell).
One of the greatest (and perhaps least known) mob movies is called “A Bronx Tale” directed by Robert De Niro (his directorial debut). In the film, De Niro plays a hard working father and husband named Lorenzo. He drives a bus and works hard all day to make ends meet. He does the simple things that aren’t so simple. Right next door is Sonny (played beautifully by Chazz Palminteri). Sonny is a hard hitting mob boss who looks cool, talks cool, walks cool, and lures Lorenzo’s son, Calogero, into his glamorous, radical mob lifestyle. At one point in the movie, Calogero scolds his dad saying the working man is a “sucker” and that Sonny is the tough guy. Lorenzo grabs his son and says, “you’re wrong. I’m the tough guy, your father. Let’s see Sonny drive that bus all day long and make an honest living for his family.” Calogero was wrong. We need to be more like Lorenzo and less like Sonny.
Don’t be ashamed to be “uncool” or “unrevolutionary” in the way you grow closer to God. It takes hard work and discipline. It isn’t fancy or popular. It won’t make you into a superstar or world-wide personality. What it will do is make Jesus smile. It will cause him to say, “this one belongs to me.” It will change your home and family. It will change the church.
All by being a simple people for God.
I finish with a quote from Ted Cluck, a young, award-winning sports writer who “should” be in the revolutionary crowd but isn’t. He says, “My point is to encourage. . .those of us who aren’t ready to chuck centuries worth of church history, and years of unglamorous but God-glorifying growth in the name of revolution.”