Updated: Sep 26
Christ was radical!
He was radical in love.
Christ was radical in his love for all people.
When Christ presented the idea that we should love our enemies, He was saying that we should have no enemies. That's a radical idea, when carried to its fullest expression.
Christ challenged the power structures of his day, both religious and political, in their abuse of those they lorded their power over. And he calls us into the same radical love and protest today.
How often we sacrifice our voice and conscious for the sake of group belonging.
That's a dangerous game to play. It will make us sick, and the groups we belong to sick. It's never easy to speak up and say what you see about something that's wrong. But speaking up is important. Speaking up may lead to you see that you were wrong about what you thought. It may lead others to see something they didn't. But if we build our communities on silence and compliance, we are destined for unhealthy communities that perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
There is always a balance between individuals and the communities they make up. Being radical in our desire for healthy community isn't about pointing out every wrong thing you think and see. It's about the space for everyone to have a voice. That's the point of community, to find real connection through honest conversation. If we can't speak our mind and be open about what we feel, then we are heading down a path where some voices will dominate, and others will shrink back for the sake of a false peace and a false sense of belonging.
Usually, those who end up dominating a group don't realize their voice is louder than others. They can think everyone has the same freedom as they do to move around and be themselves. It's often hard for them to hear that they are privileged in their freedom in ways others aren't.
Sometimes dominate voices do see their privilege, and just don't want to give it up. At times, we all like to have the upper hand in a group, to be favored, to feel special.
In a group, it's important to work for the good of everyone. When it comes to power, influence, and affluence, it's the responsibility of those who have more to work harder to lift up those who don't. We shouldn't leave those who have less to fight their way up from that lower position. That can lead to undue tension and conflict on both sides. Those in power will often resent someone who seems to be attempting to take their power way, even as those who are disempowered will resent those keeping them in that place.
A healthy group dynamic is one where we are in constant conversation about the dynamic of power in every part of the group. It's not that we will all occupy the same place. There are leaders and there are followers.
A good leader knows that those they lead should choose to be led, because they believe in the leader, because they know the leader has their good in mind. A group should be good for everyone, and give everyone the space to learn, grow, find their place, and choose to be in that place because it is what fits them.
Leaders who try to "plug" people into the spots they want them to be in often end up forcing people into what doesn't fit them. That's a leader who cares more about their own personal agenda than leading people. The point of a leader is the care of the people they are leading. As Jesus pointed out, the purpose of a leader is to serve those they lead. Too often leaders end up using others to serve their own needs and goal.
No one likes to feel used. No one likes to feel like an expendable cog in a machine. We all need to belong, to find our place in a community of people. But we should never feel like we have to sacrifice our freedom and pursuits in order to belong. Good, healthy communities are places that help us discover more about ourselves, and grow into ourselves more, not squelch who we are for the sake of someone else's vision.
Christ, in his earthly ministry sought out and went after the downtrodden, oppressed, lowly, and the outcast. He stood up against the abuse of the power structures of his day. He called out religious leaders for being selfish and self-serving. Jesus spoke truth to power and displayed the upside-down power of God.
God's idea of power is using power to lift up the lowly, free the oppressed, liberate the captive, and restore the dignity of the poor and marginalized. Any Christ-community which aims to follow His example must be careful to do the same. Amen!