June 26, 2016 - Extremism

And to another he said, "Follow me."
But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
And another said, "I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home."
To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."

Luke 9:51-62

This Sunday’s reading demands extremism.  But what does it mean to be an extremist Christian?  What does it look like to be urgently and fully engaged with God? 

It doesn’t seem to mean being extremely moral.  Jesus seems far more interested in forgiving lapses of morality that avoiding them.  He didn’t warn Judas or Peter against betraying him – he merely predicted it.  And last week Paul declared bluntly that morality is not the path to salvation.  Atheists and agnostics are good people too.  If Christianity is finally just about “being a good person”, then its central message is indistinguishable from a secular ethic and it will fade into oblivion.

Nor does it seem to mean being extremely evangelical and interspersing declarations of belief in our everyday speech.   In the Gospel of Matthew (7:21) Jesus criticizes those who always say to him, “Lord, Lord”, and advises us to pray in private (6:5).

To be an extremist or devout Christian means to allow our relationship to God to transcend morality and even purpose.  We don’t need to accomplish anything for God, and He does not need to accomplish anything for us to make the relationship immeasurably valuable.  To be an extremist Christian means to place everything in the context of this sacred relationship with the divine.