Earlier this week a friend shared some concerns with me that I might be viewed as a bit too radical for this part of the world. So I struggled with this notion of being “too radical”. For several hours I was feeling quite sullen and deeply conflicted. Was I doing more harm than good? Was I really too radical? If so, what could I do to right the ship? So many thoughts were going through my mind, and my heart was troubled. And then some things happened that renewed my mind and transformed my spirit.
First, let me set the stage just a bit further. There is some concern that my Lenten discipline might ruffle some feathers of the local legal community, perhaps giving them the wrong impression of myself and/or produce a slightly negative reputation. The friend had fine intentions, wanting us to think through the long-term effects of my “personal convictions”. I can understand this sentiment. I have had to discern on several occasions whether I should wear the orange uniform, participate in some event, or go public at a certain place. All of this discernment is necessary so that I do consider in a non-legalistic way the effects my personal spiritual discipline will have, not just now but in the coming months and years. These concerns from and about the legal community really got to me.
So now dispirited, I received a phone call from a good friend later that afternoon. He was calling for something totally unrelated to all of this, but little did he know how timely his call would be for me. So after he unexpectedly got an earful from me, he quite wisely stated, “But Kent, you will never hear these concerns or statements from those who actually suffer. The poor and oppressed aren’t concerned about you being too radical.” Amen, brother, amen.
So I began again at that moment to remember that I am not doing this for the powers that be. I am wearing the orange prison uniform for the powerless and voiceless. On their behalf, I am using what power I have to speak truth to power, in love and grace, with a call for our collective confession and repentance and transformation. The cries of the powerless matter more to me than the concerns of the powerful. For I trust in God’s unfailing love, and my heart rejoices in our Lord’s salvation (Psalm 13:5).
And then the Spirit of Life didn’t stop there. The next morning I got a call from the front desk of Mission Waco’s Meyer Center for Urban Ministries, where I work, that said a woman and her son insisted on seeing me. They were waiting in our all-purpose area. So I drudgingly walked across the building and down the stairs, all the while thinking, “I hope this doesn’t take too long and isn’t too difficult; I am tired and have too much to do today!” And then I turned the corner and saw the faces of this mother and her son light up with smiles that warmed me to my core. “I saw you on TV, sitting on those courthouse steps”, exclaimed the mother [I couldn’t tell her it was just the steps of our building, ha]. “I just had to meet you and bring my son to talk with you. This is as exciting to me as if I was meeting President Obama!”
Whoa, hold up a second. President Obama. I doubt that. It’s just me, Kent McKeever, lawyer for the poor, minister to youth, father, husband, stumbling and bumbling sinner. It’s just me. But in these moments together and as I reflected on the experience, I began to allow this meeting of spirits to remind me of what matters most. I don’t share this story with you to assert or suggest that I am as important as President Obama! But maybe I was to this woman and her son. You see, this mother’s son had just been released from prison. He had been sentenced to 30 years for aggravated robbery. The weapon that “aggravated” the robbery was a belt. A BELT! But now he was free and turning his life around after years in bondage to addiction and injustice.
Maybe my radical expression of God’s Grace and Love — the Hope of a different way of living, a faith that is willing to be “too radical”, a vision and act that confronts the culture of death we live in with the Way, the Truth, and the Life we know through Jesus and the Spirit of Life — maybe this radical expression was just radical enough. Especially for the poor and oppressed.
God’s love is radical. God’s grace is radical. The hope we have in Jesus and the Life of the Spirit is radical. My journey is not about me or my radical personal convictions. This journey is about how I might understand and express this radical God through a radical faith in a radical confrontation with the powers of death in our world with the radical truth that Life and Love win. Why wouldn’t I want to be a radical messenger of Hope and healing to a mother and a son needing to hear a word of Grace?! Why wouldn’t I be radical if I truly believe God loves me and you and God’s whole beautiful broken world?!
Yet in the same breath, why is my journey considered so extreme, so different, so disconcerting to some, and yet hope-filling to others? It pains me that in living out our faith as followers of Jesus, my acts are not just considered the norm. We come from a long line of radical mothers and fathers of our faith. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Isaiah, Amos, Peter, Nathanael, Mary, John, Paul, Timothy, Lydia, Francis, Catherine, Gustavo, Martin, Theresa, Oscar, Dorothy, William, Bryan, Gary, and on and on and on. Why is living out a radical faith in Life and Love so gosh darn strange? Why are Christians sometimes the first and often the loudest in efforts to discredit, quiet, and counter a radical faith in Hope and Grace? Can we truly say these words and mean them if we are not willing to be “too radical” — “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation…”?!
Ultimately, my prayer is that acts such as my own will be the norm for followers of Jesus. I do not want to be “too radical”. I want “too radical” to be the way we all live as faithful followers of Jesus. In this way, maybe each one of us will find the one person we will excite with Hope and fill with Love so that we will truly be more exciting to them than meeting President Obama [_______________]. [I fully realize that President Obama may be the last person some of you may want to meet, so feel free to insert your own “celebrity” into the blank. Ha]
“Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.“ Acts 2:43-47, The Voice
RADICAL IS OUR WAY OF LIFE. SO TOGETHER LET’S LIVE RADICALLY IN GRACE, WITH HOPE, FAITH, AND MOST OF ALL, LOVE.