Focus on the Hurt
There is room for radicalism in the church, to be sure, but spiritual radicalism should be differentiated from secular radicalism. Let’s not confuse the two together as we so often do. When you study the modeled life of Jesus, the distinction becomes extraordinarily clear. He was as radical as they come. I like to refer to his brand of radicalism as, “compassionate radicalism.”
Walter Brueggemann, in The Prophetic Imagination, gives further clarity to this kind of radicalism when he writes, “Jesus, in his solidarity with the marginal ones, is moved to compassion. Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural, but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of ‘lawfulness’ in Jesus; time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion. The norms of law (social control) are never accommodated to persons, but persons are accommodated to the norms. Otherwise the norms will collapse and with them the whole power arrangement. Thus the compassion of Jesus is to be understood not simply as a personal reaction but as a public criticism in which he dares to act upon his concern against the entire numbness of his social context.”
The emphasis here is on the “hurt” as opposed to the condition that created the hurt. The focus is not on the leprosy; it is on the person who is suffering the resulting banishment, stigma and pain. The focus is not on prostitution, adultery, homosexual or heterosexual liaisons; it is on the person(s) who will inevitably suffer the hurt (self-inflicted and “norms” inflicted) that will invariably accompany these lifestyle choices. Medical and social researchers take the condition seriously whilst Christians take the hurt seriously. In Pharaoh’s time the law was all that mattered. In Christ’s time compassion mattered more. Compassion is the preemptive counterpunch that will topple the forces of evil. You can’t get more radical than that!