The Radical Way of Jesus
In The Book of Romans Chapter 12, Paul issues a very tall order clothed in sweet, gentle language. You know the kind – engineered so you’ll say yes and only later wonder how you’ll ever make it happen.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
Oh, is that all Paul? Just live at peace with (could he really mean) everyone?
It is the capstone to his instructions on how to do life together in the newly forming Christian community of Rome. Paul was gathering Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, from all walks of life. Rome was a diverse city of commerce and Paul was shepherding all who responded to the gospel message, banding them together in the midst of a culture that was set up to segregate and divide.
It was a radical undertaking. But then again, Paul was following a radical leader.
Jesus was an issuer of similar, gently presented, seemingly impossible instructions. So impossible in fact that when describing the type of people most easily admitted to the Kingdom of God, he elicited confusion and had to reassure his listeners,
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
The scene is echoed in Luke 18. What comprised the list of impossible-sounding qualities Jesus claimed were possessed by the most effective citizens in the Kingdom of God?
Judging by the parables immediately preceding, the list included:
- People of prayer like the widow,
- people of humility like the tax collector,
- the child-like and the poor.
Uplifting those qualities was unheard of in the shame and honor culture of the day – a culture that celebrated wealth, strength and power and saw each as blessings bestowed by a higher power. And though we’ve heard it many times and accept it as true today, we still, 2,000 later, struggle to “aspire” to those qualities ourselves.
Then as now, we are so very busy trying our very hardest to do our very best that we pass over the very qualities God can best use.
Why is the Kingdom of God especially seeking its prayerful, humble, child-like citizens? Because those are the ones who are fit to work effectively as parts in a body, the Body Paul describes in the very same chapter, in which inter-dependency must be in effect for anything to function.
God is not on the lookout for superstars or heroes.
That role has already been filled in Christ. And besides, God has a much larger mission than any one person during any one lifetime can accomplish. Therefore the most important qualities are those that predispose a person to listening over speaking, admitting errors and correcting course quickly, submitting over commanding and above all trusting that the radical way of Jesus is indeed possible.
Without these qualities, the Body is at odds with itself.
Talk about odd, we usually go about things upside-down and backwards, commonly putting our own impossible-sounding plans out there to declare, “All things are possible with God.” Our hope is that somehow God will make a way, bring us the resources for our dream to all turn out as we’ve outlined in prayer.
I know I’ve been guilty of this. So odd.
It’s much harder to lean in and listen for God’s plan; a plan that will inevitably involve weaving us together with people very different from ourselves, and together listening for God’s impossible-sounding, yet gentle requests, having faith that “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
The beauty of this is that life lived in pursuit of the Kingdom becomes less dependent on my strength, my perfection, my ability, and my performance. In short, there are no limits to the possibilities of what can be accomplished together.
Rachel Rose Nelson is Founder & President of Her Worth International whose mission is to equip women to succeed at the challenging call of leading freedom businesses. She is also a wife, mother and student, pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry from Portland Seminary. To learn more visit her webiste and connect with her on social media.