I read this article, The New “Legalism” by Anthony Bradley in World Magazine that asks this question, “is missional becoming the new legalism.” I am hearing and reading more comments like a friend of mine who stated recently that not all Christians want to live a radical life.
Here are a couple of quotes from Dr. Bradley’s article:
“Is Paul’s urging to live quietly, mind your own affairs, and work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) only for losers? Do you feel that you’re wasting your gifts if you “settle” into an ordinary job, get married early and start a family, or live in a small town or suburb?”
“Being a ‘radical,’ ‘missional’ Christian is slowly becoming the ‘new legalism.’ We need more ordinary God and people lovers (Matt 22:36-40).”
I understand that it is a reaction to popular books like Radical, Crazy Love, and Hole in the Gospel.
But I think we need to use caution that we don’t over-react.
One of Dr. Bradley’s assertions is that the missional movement is creating “stressed and burnt-out young people from the regular shaming …if they happen to not be doing something unique and special.”
He concludes his article with this statement—
…radical Christianity was a well-intentioned attempt to address lukewarm Christians in the suburbs, but because it is primarily reactionary and does not provide a positive construction for the good life from God’s perspective, it misses “radical” ideas in Jesus’ own teachings like “love.”
I have a couple of thoughts of my own about this reaction to the missional movement.
Truths from God’s Word Do Not Shame
I agree that the verses referred to by Dr. Bradley are ways we ought to live life. I don’t agree that they are antithetical to scripture that calls us to care for the orphan and the widow. Or other verses that compel us, even command us, to make disciples. These verses convict me to use what God has blessed me with to bring Him glory. Conviction is different from shame.
Rhythm of Life
Soma Communities does a good job of teaching how to live a missional lifestyle within the rhythm of life.
A missional or radical Christian lifestyle doesn’t cause stress, otherwise Jesus would have been stressed and burnt out. Trying to live life from our own strength causes it. This is true whether we live in a comfortable, suburban Christian environment, or we live in a dusty village in Northeast Thailand among animists and Buddhists.
I grew up in church trying to follow the rules. I remember feeling stressed trying to live a “Christian” life. Then I learned that abiding in Jesus Christ, loving Him, and obeying Him has a rhythm. A restful rhythm.
He Has All of Me
Today, Jesus Christ owns my life to do with as He wills—that is radical. Because He is a missionary God, if He has my life, He will send me. That is missional.
What about the Christian lifestyle stresses or burns you out?