Memorial Day and Radical Discipleship

Let’s begin by acknowledging that nominal allegiance to Jesus Christ is good for nothing, and that Christian In Name Only is no better than any other kind of -INO. The demands of Jesus Christ are total, and this means that radical discipleship is the only option open to those who want to walk in obedience. “Come, follow me,” He said. He did not ask for us to give Him a polite head nod from time to time.

But once we have turned our backs on lethargic or nominal Christianity, there are still some significant hazards. A Christian walk that is “all in” can be radical in significantly dangerous ways. The biblical call is to be obedient, not to do a bunch of things that zealous but disobedient hearts would like to call obedient.

Parse it out this way. The claims of Christ are total, but what happens when we submit to those claims? There are two basic conceptions of what should follow such a surrender, and both claim the authority of radical discipleship — but only one of them really is. One has no trouble celebrating Memorial Day, and the other has real difficulty with it. Guess which one I think is true.

One views the claims of Christ as a solvent, and the other views them as a glue.

The former sees love in the same context that all unbelieving thought does, which is zero sum thinking. More in this direction necessarily means less in that direction. More love for Christ means less love for my neighbor. And since Christ demands it all, the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. This can be made to sound very pious, and sometimes it is pious in spite of itself. But the long term logic of this understanding will out. Zero sum thinking leads inexorably to sentimentalism, socialism and sodomy.