The Balanced Radical

WORDS FROM W.W. November 10, 2011

Here in Colorado Springs in the midst of one of the main tourist attractions, Garden of the Gods, there is a huge boulder that looks like it has been turned upside down and balanced on its tip. Thus the name of the attraction, “Balanced Rock.”
Balanced Rock looks like it could go either way at any moment. One notices that there are some tourist who walk a wide circle around it because of having just a little fear of being smushed! And Balanced Rock has continued to stay balanced for a long, long time.
Walking with Jesus is meant to be a radical experience in many ways. All one needs to do is read the gospel stories of the encounters Jesus had with people from various livelihoods, and listen to the words that Jesus said to pick up on the fact that being a “Jesus follower” is transforming. For instance, when Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats and he talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the prisoners, and taking care of the sick, he makes the point that what was done for the least was done for him. (Matthew 25:31-46) Of course, he goes the other direction in the same parable and talks about the fact that what was not done for the least person was also not done for him. It’s a rather uncomfortable scenario. I guess you could say rather radical.
There’s also a section of Scripture in Luke 11 called “The Six Woes.” To summarize the six woes Jesus makes the point that the religious folk known as the Pharisees were all about outward appearances, but spiritually vacant on the inside. They put on a good show, but there was no substance and root to it.
I’ve been reading an interesting book entitled Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church. In the book the three pastors (Martin Copenhaver, Anthony Ropinson, and William Willimon), drawing from their experiences serving various congregations and college chapels, are pushing for what could best to titled “A Balanced Radical Faith.” They push for their readers to see how often the church has tilted to one side or the other, and therefore, the participants of the church have also usually tilted one way or the other. In many congregations there is the push and emphasis to get involved in fighting hungry, abuse, homelessness, and violence. In other congregations there is the emphasis to have a multitude of Bible studies, home groups, prayer gatherings, and worship services.
Neither is necessarily bad. It’s good to feed the hungry. It seems that Jesus made a pretty big deal out of that. It’s also good to study the Word, and discuss the depth of our faith and beliefs.
A balanced radical is one who is coming more and more to an understanding, a conviction, that Jesus is calling for followers who want to go deeper in their spiritual lives, and also desire to serve more sacrificially.
It’s like “Balanced Rock.” Many people will make a wide circle around it, because it seems so strange. And yet, balanced radicals are who Jesus is calling us to be. In a sense, our world is turned upside down in service to the King of Kings. Not many of us risk it, because it looks like our world could topple over.
And here’s the thing, a balanced radical realizes that he/she never arrives at a point of settledness, because the winds of life are always causing adjustments. In other words, the balanced radical comes to an understanding that it is only faith in Jesus that is holding him up.

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