I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. -St. John 17:26A friend and I were talking about living the Christian life and I used the term "radical Christianity," then corrected myself.
"Radical Christianity" is a term I've heard many, many times used to describe the lives of people like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Calcutta. What hit me in our conversation was that we were talking about the kinds of life every Christian should be living, so there shouldn't be any "radical Christianity." We should all be living a radical life, but radical only because we are daring to live it as authentic Christians, true followers of Christ. St. Francis and St. Theresa were living their lives in response to the call of Christ. They were doing exactly what God had called them to do. We are no different, though, perhaps, not called to live the charisms to which they were called. Our duty as Christians is to discern the life Christ is calling us to live, then to open ourselves up to living that life. Otherwise, we are wasting the talents God has given us and we will be called to account for that.
If you or I actually do live our lives radically, searching for Truth and responding to It completely within the circumstances in which God has placed us, then we are living a Christian life. No other way of living our lives can compare in radicality. There are no tattoos, piercings, gauges, clothing, costumes, makeup, political or social causes, economic or philosophical schools, career paths or other ways of living that will compare to carrying your cross with Christ. All of it fails in the end, because we are left only with ourselves and we make such crappy gods. We can't even get the human being thing right. Why do we think we can be our own gods or gods for others? After all, if you aren't living for God, you are living only for yourself.
We become truly human only in God's love for us, so radical Christianity doesn't exist. God has a particular life for each of us to live and a particular mission for each of us to fulfill, but that doesn't radicalize our Christianity. It only radicalizes our lives. To live a life so fully dedicated to Christ, we have to be radically in love with Him. We must love Him. Otherwise, we lack the strength and motivation to live counter to the example of the contemporary culture. The love we have for Christ and the infinite love with which He loves us first and with which He returns our love strengthens us and raises us above all of the roadblocks, the hesitations, the fear, the doubts, the mockery, the pain, the loneliness, the hatred, the soft persecutions, the bad examples, and the bitterness. Christ's infinite and perfect love assumes our finite and imperfect love and that united love becomes a force that changes the world or the life of one person. And changing the world and changing a person's life are endeavors of equal worth, since both spring from a love in which God loves us so profoundly that He divinizes us, thereby giving us the power to see the unimaginable beauty of others as He Himself does. Only then do we love our neighbors as ourselves.
It is at the point we begin seeing others as God sees them and loving them in response to His love for us that our lives become radical and our Christianity authentic.