“Moderation in all things.” This principle is a wonderful guide to the use of those things neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word. But when the clear Word of God calls for a definite action, the moderate Christian is to become a blessed radical.
In a similar way “Only the best will do” was the theme of “The Fountainhead,” Ayn Rand’s classic novel from the thirties. Neither the author nor the underlying theme of the novel were Christian. But many of us drew from it some thoughts about how marvelous it would be if Christians would always follow the Word with the same intense, dedicated, uncompromising singleness of purpose practiced by the architect-hero of the novel. Principle was never to be sacrificed on the altar of personal fame or fortune.
“Radical” isn’t all bad. Its base meaning is “one who advocates basic and revolutionary change in current practices.” In fact, “Blessed Radicals” may find themselves in some pretty good company. With their Savior, for example? The cross was nothing if not a radical solution for paying off the world’s tremendous debt of sin.
Jesus exhibited a flint-like posture in “setting his face toward Jerusalem” to suffer the radical death reserved only for the worst criminals — the cross (Lk. 9:51). He in fact issued a radical rebuke to Peter who would have stopped Him from offering His life: “Get behind Me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23).
Blessed radicals find themselves likewise in good company with the apostle Paul. Certainly he offered “basic and revolutionary changes in current practices.” The time for all such change is always now, not later (v. 2). And the results of such changes were sometimes not just discomfort, but beatings and imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel (v. 5). We may certainly commend the Corinthian Christians who, once assured that it was for the sake of the Gospel, could nevertheless thank God for a pastor sitting in jail with a bloodied back. Surely that called for some fairly radical thinking and doing.
We live in a world of suspicion, mistrust, and deceit. Yet the Christian finds himself opening a guileless heart to his fellow believers, even as Paul did in Corinth, expecting them also to respond in kind (vv. 11-13). It is a radical departure from what goes on around us in the world to open ourselves up to each other both in sharing the joys of Gospel victories as well as the duties of mutual warnings.
Radical action was required to settle the case of the Corinthian member living in sin. Paul used his apostolic authority to order the excommunication which, however, ended up in that member’s ultimate repentance and reinstatement (1 Cor. 5:4-5, 2 Cor. 2:3-8).
There Are Limits
To be sure, the “Blessed Radicals” have their limits. The key word is “blessed” — “eternally happy.” Radical is good when used to describe all actions in keeping within the limits of God’s Word. When we are confronted in getting mixed up in a fellowship based on something less than full agreement with the Word, the chapter before us sets limits.
Some questions in this regard shouldn’t even need an answer, such as, whether or not Christians are to be paired with unbelievers, or walk in this world’s sinful darkness, or make common cause with Satan, or cooperate with the unbeliever and his idols. Where the holy God lives in the heart there can be no room for anything or anyone else opposed (vv. 14-16).
And let us all remember and cherish the wonderful promise of grace made to all who come out from and separate themselves in their faith-life from among those who stand for anything else than full agreement in God’s Word.
Can we expect to be left in despair and hopelessness? On the contrary: “‘I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord almighty” (v. 18).
Now there are some “Blessed Radicals”!
–Pastor Bertram Naumann