Radical or Relevant?

by A. Maeve McDonald

Over the years, I’ve encountered many different interpretations of what it means to live life as a Christian. When confronted with the vast array of—often conflicting—opinions on how we as believers should live out our faith, I’ve often been left scratching my head, and asking myself: so, are we to be counter-cultural or culturally sensitive? How much in the world can we really be without being of it? Are we to be radical or relevant, or somewhere in between?

The perennial question, how in the world should I live? is one which continues to occupy my mind even now in my thirties. Living in the culturally diverse DC area, I’ve observed a wide variety of takes on the Christian walk, many of which bear surprisingly little resemblance to one another. For example, here are two Christians I have known…

“Jim” is the first. He lives out his faith in an “out-there” kind of way, wearing his convictions unashamedly on his sleeve. Jim personifies what could be seen as radical. Everyone in the office at work knows he is a Christian. He talks openly about his relationship with the Lord, prays before eating his sandwich in the lunchroom and reads his bible on the metro. Everyone likes him well enough, but in all honesty, no one seems to take him all that seriously. He might be a little unrelatable.

On the flip-side, there’s “Rob.” You would never guess Rob was a Christian if you bumped into him at one of the heavy-drinking get-togethers he frequents. He doesn’t use Christianese. He has swagger. He wears believably edgy clothes. He only listens to secular music. You might say that Rob is relevant. He’s a fixture at the bars, but you’ll often find him at church on Sunday as well (with a bit of a hangover sometimes, let’s be honest). If you get to know him, he’ll tell you what he believes. And you might say: wow, normal, fun people like you can be Christian? Maybe there’s something to this Christianity thing after all.

Rob and Jim may seem like over-generalizations, but I think many of us have known some version of a Rob or Jim at one point in our lives or another. We may even identify certain characteristics of Rob or Jim in ourselves. Both Jim and Rob sincerely believe in Jesus, but they each have a different idea of what it means to live out their faith…

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Faith Actually: Radical or Relevant?