The terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, were carried out by a husband and wife who had been “radicalized” in their Muslim faith for years. Nowadays when you hear the word radical, you immediately think of the worst forms of religious expression. But the question must be asked, “Is Radical Ever Good?”
Radical religious beliefs are nothing new. In Jesus’ day, there were several radical religious Jewish groups.
Essenes – this Jewish sect lived a communal lifestyle in isolation from the general society. The Essenes were purists who practiced asceticism and daily cleansing for purification. Some have suggested that John the Baptist was himself an Essenes. This group no longer exists today, but resurfaced in popularity since the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Pharisees – this religious group of men had high regards for the Old Testament writings. They were legalistic in their view of Scripture and sought justification with God through their religiosity. Their hyper-religious nature lead to a great deal of judgmental attitudes towards common man.
Zealots – this group of Jews was focused primarily on politics more than religion. The Zealots sought freedom from Roman rule and were willing to do so by force. “Because of their often-violent tactics, the Zealots have been called some of the world’s first terrorists.”
The Essenes are not spoken of directly in the Bible, but the Pharisees, Zealots and also the Sadducees are each mentioned. Jesus did not align himself with any of these groups. Jesus spoke of the need for internal cleaning of the Pharisees and condemned their external religiosity. (Matthew 23:26) Likewise, Jesus did not approve of violent behavior and rebellion against political authorities. (Matthew 26:52, Mark 14:48, Luke 9:54-55)
A Different Kind of Radical
Though Jesus did not approve of the radical nature of the Pharisees or Zealots, there was a radicalism He promoted. Jesus taught time and again that to truly follow Him, you must have a radical love for God and a radical love for people. (Mark 12:29-31) This type of radicalization would never do harm to another person, but only seek for their good. (Romans 13:10)
As I view the Western church of our modern day, I begin to wonder, “Are we lacking the type of radical that Jesus promoted?” It is easy to find people who condemn others, judge others and draw lines to separate the “good” people from the “bad” people. It is not as easy to find people who are radical in their love, generous in their forgiveness and merciful even to those who do them wrong. What ever happened to that type of radical?
So back to my original question, “Is Radical Ever Good?”
My own response is this: “Radical is good when radical is for the good of others, not for their destruction.” I think the world is starving to see this type of radical love and good deeds in action. Will the world find this type of radical Christian love in you?