Radical Death, Radical Life, Radical Love
Today in church we were challenged to not be like the members of the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14 – 21), which were described as being “lukewarm” in their actions with others, versus being hot nor cold. As I listened to our Pastor, the six words in the title of this post, and a host of thoughts began to flood my mind.
I know I heard God prompting me to deliver Radical Love, which to me is to focus on delivering the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control (Galatians 5:22 – 23), and the ten characteristics of Agape: Love, Esteem, Cherish, Favor, Honor, Respect, Accept, Prize, Relish and “to be Devoted to.”
To me, Radical Love means living in order to practically produce this type of Fruit, in any given encounter, experience, conversation, relationship, what have you. I certainly don’t do it perfectly nor consistently, but I do endeavor to live like this more than not. As I write this, I am glad that I have this awareness of what Radical Love looks like, because that means that I will think then act in accordance with my value system, and these are my “go to” values.
But in order to produce this level of fruitfulness and productivity, I need to be living a Radical Life. As I listened to the sermon (I did listen to the Pastor, but this is a prime time when usually God speaks to me, so literal or mental notes will be taken…), Matthew 25, and specifically the Parable of the Talents (v. 14 – 18) came to mind:
14 “Again it (the Kingdom of Heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
I know I have been given much, and I want to finish my life strong, hopefully achieving the “five talent” or at the very least the “two talent” level of living. At 53, I finally realize what I need to say no to, in order to say yes to the prompting(s) of the Holy Spirit and get closer to my goals. I know I challenge the men, women and couples that I sit with everyday to live their lives purposefully, as reflected in radical living, even as life circumstances threaten to derail them from their resolves. I take this medicine as well.
I am glad that I worked on Skid Row in Los Angeles for 16 years, and during my first year there, I held onto that grimy hand of the man who was homeless, and asked myself “what would Jesus do? Would He let go, out of fear of contracting something, or would He hold on? In an instant, I got my answer, and over the next 16 years, that one decision helped me to experience Radical Living. But as I write this, I know there is more Radical Living to be done which will produce more Radical Love in my life. I think about how I am glad I held onto the homeless man’s hand; today, I know Jesus would want me to wash his feet. I am sure that I will get the opportunity to demonstrate actions like this in this season of my life. I look forward to it!
However (and finally) I also realized that Radical Living is preceded with a Radical Death. I heard God speak two more scriptures to me:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” – John 12: 24 – 26 (TNIV)
“Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” – Luke 9:23 (TNIV)
So I asked myself what do I need to die to, perhaps on a daily basis, in order to live a Radical Life? This is probably the hardest area because there is no bargaining with death. I can’t keep one foot in both worlds. If there is going to be this level of sweet fruitfulness, then the “contaminants” that I allow in the soil of my heart have to go. This means that I have to die to how I spend (or waste) my time, how I steward “my” money and how my thoughts need to be thoughts in line with Jesus’ thinking. This will be tough, but if I want to produce this level of growth, and be “hot” for God as was spoken in the sermon, and if I want this post to be more than a “great entry,” then transformation will occur. As I close this post, I am reminded of one more scripture:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12: 1 – 2 (TNIV)
Well said Paul. Thank you God and thank you Pastor. Radical Death leads to Radical Life/Living, which produces Radical Love for the Kingdom. May God help me, and you, as you aspire to live like this.
TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill
Excellent article! Maybe there’s something about age 53 that we’re finally starting to get it. 🙂