Have you ever heard of a BHAG? (That’s a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, if you don’t know.) What about the book Radical? Or can you imagine a college student dressing in funny blue pants and a massive afro wig? Whether you are familiar with all of these things or not, they represent a common thread in popular Christian thought, especially among rambunctious teenagers.
There is an idea out there that as Christians we need to do big, bold things to be the “light of the world.” Popularly, BHAGs, Radical, and the silly stunt I pulled while a dual-enrolled student are all examples. We must always stand out and be ready to even do such things as stand up on a table in the mall and recite the Romans Road (something we may all applaud but feel guilty that we’d never do). After all, don’t such spectacular displays suit the urgency of evangelism, the need to spread the Good News to all people for their salvation?
The truth is, though, that while some people are called to be more showy witnesses (I mean, think about what the apostles did), the idea that we all should be so radical is quite foreign to Scripture. For my main support, I cite 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12.
But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.
I’d also reference something like 1 Timothy 2:2b-4, where Paul tells us to pray for authorities
so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The New Testament teaches that the Christian life, for the most part, should be fairly subdued. It does not need any flashy attempts at getting God glory or big plans to be radical and weird in obvious ways. Those things come from a good intention, but they are practically speaking often unhelpful to the kingdom of God, since the very spectacle intended to give them power can easily turn people off from the Christian life.
Really, when we look at what the Bible says to us, we do not see commands for most of us to emulate the witness of the apostles and evangelists, but to do like the texts I cited above say: to live quiet and respectable lives, maintaining a good reputation among people both inside and outside of the church. Why is this? This is the kind of life which gives our message of Christ credibility and attractiveness. As we see in places such as Titus 2:8, 1 Peter 2:12, and 1 Peter 3:15-16, our primary method for sharing Christ with the world is by living a life which can be respected, appreciated, and accessibly imitated by all people, so that they will not be scared away but see the true worth of Jesus.
Of course, this is not to say that our lives should just blend in with the world. Absolutely not! These verses I’ve mentioned all ring with another theme: to be holy, living a life of blamelessness, love, and integrity. Doing these things to a supernatural extent (by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, cf. Gal. 5:22-23) is what makes it possible for the Christian walk to not only be taken seriously by outsiders, but to actually be seen as a positive ideal, something worth becoming a part of. This is radical, but not in a showy or obvious way. It is radical in the way that the little details and contours of your life before the world, which you only explain by reference to Jesus in you, cause people to tilt their heads in wonder. This is a BHAG, but a subtle one which attracts people to Jesus Himself and not an event, personality, or church.
So what’s my ultimate point? The high calling of the Christian life for most believers (and this is a very high calling) is not to show off our Gospel or zeal in spectacular, radical, or jaw-dropping ways. Instead it is a calling to a quiet life, respected by all, and attractive by virtue of its purity and charity. In this way, people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. With this kind of life in mind, try reading the Beatitudes:
The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. The gentle are blessed, for they will inherit the earth. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled. The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God. The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God. Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(P.S. As always, I need to do a final clarification. I think there is a legitimate place for stuff like BHAGs, but I do not think that place is necessarily somewhere visible to all, but where the Father who sees in secret can reward you. Likewise, I do not at all have a problem with the kind of life David Platt teaches in Radical, but would advise that we do these radical things humbly and without show. If we are radical to be seen by others, which is too often the case, what will be our reward? But if we are closet radicals, our God gets the glory.)