Living radically for Jesus in a normal life

  • Question 203, asked via Twitter

    How can I live radically for Jesus if I’m middle class, have a good job, house, 2.4 children and lead a ‘comfortable’ life?

    This is an interesting, practical question that affects a number of Christians. It does, however, reveal a ‘sacred-secular divide’. The unwritten subtext in the question seems to be that radical faith is something spiritual, while the family, house and career are in fact compromises made with normal life. This tension has always been a part of the Christian faith, modelled by the disciples who left their fishing boats – their livelihoods – to follow Jesus.

    The answer to this is to ask the question, how you can live radically for Jesus in that context? Depending on your workplace that might mean holding to different values to everyone else, or behaving in a noticeably different way. For example, not engaging in office politics, or showing kindness and care for all your co-workers and employees, regardless of their standing in the company. In terms of family, taking your commitments seriously as a spouse and parent could be equally ‘radical’.

    In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians he twice tells the readers to commit whole-heartedly to their endeavours: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (chapter 3, verse 24, see also verse 17). This is in the context of family life, with instructions to husbands and fathers. Paul’s statement does not distinguish between this and ‘spiritual’ activity.

    Being ‘middle class’ is only a hindrance if you are more afraid of losing respectability in the eyes of the neighbours than of being known to be a Christian – which the Bible warns about repeatedly. In Luke chapter 9, verse 26, Jesus says “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

    There are several books devoted to living out your faith in the workplace and developing Christian values in your family life. These can be genuine arenas for ministry and discipleship. Returning to Colossians, Paul urges his readers to be thankful for all blessings. His instruction to ‘do everything for Christ’ includes the injunction not to do it for human praise or favour. In the context of work, he reminds his readers to keep their eyes on the heavenly prize.

    To genuinely commit and serve whole-heartedly in the workplace, to be faithful to your spouse and unconditionally love your children and parent them, might be the most radical form of discipleship that many Christians are called to. The great danger is if we think that somehow this discipleship is somehow less important than other callings.

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    1. Claire Sep 24

      How do you have 2.4 children? Honest question. Just wondering if it is a typo. (:

    2. Jon the freelance theologian Oct 17

      Hi Claire. A while ago the average number of children in the UK was said to be 2.4 children. This is worked out by dividing the number of children by the number of households with children. The average goes up and down depending on the birth rate. However, the term 2.4 children has become a way of describing an ‘average’ family, which is what was meant in the question.

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