“We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
― David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
Poverty. Persecution. Suffering. Addiction. Darkness. These are things that consume our world, hold happiness in a stranglehold, and suck the life out of billions of people. This planet we call home is riddled with pain, and those of us who are blessed enough to be removed from such horrors as starvation, disease, and filth so easily ignore it all. It is so easy to sit inside our air conditioned houses on cushy couches and make grandiose plans about our futures.
I do not usually read books that I have never heard anything about, but when I saw a book titled Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, I had to check it out. What I found was a gripping, convicting, inspiring call to action that continues to fill my mind and heart with questions and controversies.
Author David Platt presents 21st century American Christians with the facts: they don not look like Jesus. The man who we are supposed to be following was poor and humble, yet so many modern Christians remain rich and comfortable and only give the minimum. Jesus said in Luke 14:26-27, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Platt raises the question, “What part of the Gospel is optional?”
Jesus Christ calls his followers to total abandonment for his sake (Matthew 10:39), but Platt argues that many who claim to follow him have actually twisted their savior into a “nice, middle-class, American Jesus…who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream." He writes that this dream is “dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism” and as such is in direct contradiction with what the scriptures say the Christian life should look like.
The solution to all of this is most certainly radical. Platt advocates dedicating at least a year to what he calls the “Radical Experiment” in order to step into the kind of lifestyle which Jesus demands of his disciple. This lifestyle include
- Praying for the entire world
- Reading through the entire word
- Sacrificing money for a specific purpose
- Spending time in another context sharing the gospel
- Committing to multiplying community
My first feeling upon reading this book was gut-wrenching fear. David Platt seemed to be confirming every misgiving I had about my own lifestyle. The stories of Christians who are suffering all around the world for the sake of the Gospel did not compare favorably to the comfortable life I was living here in the states. I was also convicted about the money which I intended to spend on an extended trip to the United Kingdom, several thousand dollars, which might be better spent on spreading the gospel and helping the poor. I wondered if I was being selfish in spending this money on myself, and if giving it up was exactly the kind of radical devotion and total abandonment that Jesus requires.
After prayer and seeking counsel, I decided that a trip to the UK should remain in my plans, but what about the other aspects of my life? Radical has impacted and challenged me to reevaluate the American dream and consider whether or not a life of ease and wealth is God’s plan for me. If I am not willing to give up all that I have, I am not worthy of following Christ.