I recently read Francis Chan answering those who call him crazy, and it brought me to a realization. He is crazy. He calls us to the impossible. He advocates giving up our dreams, lowering our high view of our families, giving away our hard-earned wealth, letting go of our most valued possessions, and structuring our lives around other people rather than ourselves. He insists that we should make decisions that will actually produce pain in the short term simply because God promises to reward us in eternity.
By nearly any standard, this is crazy. But that’s the crazy thing. The standard Francis is trying to operate by is Jesus’ standard. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d probably all agree that Jesus’ standard is crazy. Who says, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? Who takes commands against committing adultery and applies them to a person’s thought life? Or commands against murder and applies them to hatred? It’s hard enough to love a friend; who would command a person to love—to bless—one’s enemies?
Jesus’ standard is crazy, so Francis’ earnest desire to call the church to this lifestyle is crazy by association. And yet, we should wonder who is truly crazy in this situation: the person who makes it his aim to live like Jesus or the people who claim to follow Jesus and yet call people crazy for trying to follow Jesus?
To my mind, it’s crazier to say that the followers of a rejected, crucified, mocked, despised Savior (who promised that his followers would be equally hated and rejected) should expect to be accepted, pampered, praised, and indulged. It’s nuts to say that a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be following Jesus. That insisting on obedience to Jesus’ command to love him more than our own families is somehow unchristian. I don’t see the logic in it.
I’m not really trying to bolster Francis’ reputation or publicly praise him or anything like that (though I am a huge fan). But Francis and others like him give us a great opportunity to ask ourselves about the nature of Christianity. Is Christianity about a modern subculture? Is it about the modus operandi of the average American churchgoer? Is it about stated beliefs and occasional Bible reading and other religious identifications? If so, then Francis is the crazy one. Why go to extremes? Why give up so much comfort, and why bother the church to do the same?
But maybe—just maybe—Christianity is about Christ. Maybe being a Christian means being like Christ. Maybe being a follower of Jesus means following Jesus. Maybe when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and then told them to do likewise, he meant that they should do likewise. Maybe when he told us to pray for those who persecute us, he wanted us to do just that. Maybe when he told us to pursue his kingdom and righteousness before we seek our very real and very urgent daily needs, he was actually giving us a command, rather than a religious platitude.
Let’s just say that both sides are crazy. It’s crazy to say that we should actually be like Jesus. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it’s also crazy to say that we can be like Jesus without being like Jesus. I know which kind of crazy I want to pursue, and by God’s grace—by his love that surrounds, invades, and transforms me—crazy will increasingly replace normal in my life.