So I’ve never done a book review before, but this one was just too good to pass up. If I’m 100% honest, I’ve been really slacking in the reading department lately, and aside from this book, I’ve been in the middle of about half a dozen books on and off over the past year…..finally finished one! And boy was it refreshing on so many levels. It’s really a great read for the believing Christian as well as the avowed skeptic alike.
The author is a guy from Tennessee by the name of Shane Claiborne, who is a self proclaimed radical Christian. Radical in that he makes every attempt to live his life the way Jesus and His disciples lived. Radical in that his life challenges the very core of how we, especially Americans, live our lives when we ‘claim’ to be Christians. Because, in fact, we (myself definitely included) actually often live quite the opposite the way early church did. Shane equates ‘radical’ with ‘ordinary,’ and he tells of this movement sweeping the world: ordinary radicals. Ordinary people choosing to live their lives in radical new ways, getting to the roots of Christianity and what it means to love.
The entire premise of ‘The Irresistible Revolution’ is “Another Way Is Possible,” which has actually spawned a multimedia project (www.awip.us) which brings forth issues that people are too often afraid to ask. Check it out.
The amount of movements and organizations that have been started and/or encouraged by this guy’s life are nothing short of astounding. He is inspiring people worldwide to join the revolution, a revolution of 100% pure unadulterated love. This book crosses and reconciles all racial, denominational, moral, political….and pretty much any other line you could possibly think of, seeking to break down those barriers, leaving nothing behing but God’s love. Claiborne is preaching hope, and our hope is Jesus Christ. Our hope is the future, the promise of God to redeem, and restore creation; on earth as it is in heaven.
Some of Shane’s ‘radicalness’ started when he was in college, when some friends invited him out to spend time (and even spend the night) with the homeless on the streets of Philly…..in winter. Hearing the stories of them ministering to these people, well let’s just say the homeless ended up ministering to them instead! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately here in Shanghai, seeing as I run into homeless people nearly everyday. I’ve started to run into some of the same people, and though my Chinese is still lacking, I’ve been able to spend some time with them praying and chatting. It seems to mean a lot to them, maybe I’ll try my luck at spending the night on the streets with them too! Sharing the gospel is a natural product of just loving on people, and I hope my friends and I can continue to be intentional with the time we spend on the streets with them.
Shane and his friends have started an organization called ‘The Simple Way,’ which is the right in the heart of some of the roughest parts of Philly. They ‘simply’ helped some squatters rebuild an old church they were staying in, and eventually they found other homes nearby to renovate. Now their philanthropy wasn’t a smooth road; countless arrests and visits from local authorities trying to shut them down for not meeting codes. They had to fight just to live in these now improved conditions, conditions that the local government refused to improve. But they continue to press on and are quite well known by the local law enforcement. The difference now is that they are seen as a positive influence. Check them out at www.thesimpleway.org.
I don’t want to give away all his stories, you just gotta go read it! Wait till you hear about his run in with Mother Theresa! Even more importantly, Shane stresses when people ask him what they can do to help the cause, that they just need to ‘come and see for themselves.’ And it’s true, we can’t really see how far removed we Americans are from the faces of the poor. As long as they don’t have a face, we will continue to be plagued by numbness, so you need to go and see for yourself. Here is an excerpt from the book that was really thought provoking, and shows our often backward way of thinking:
‘”When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist.” Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People do not get crucified for charity. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them.’
The Irresistible Revolution, p. 129
“God loves losers” Shane proclaims, and it’s true. His grace is so ‘scandalous’ that He loves not only the poor, but the murderers, adulterers, hypocrites, and idolaters…..like me. Claiborne argues that we get so hung up on ‘Eye for an Eye,’ that we never see there truly is another way, a way of grace. Jesus doesn’t see the murderer, the adulterer, the hypocrite, He sees His child whom He loves. Jesus was an extremist of love, and He expects nothing less from each one of us. Claiborne quotes Martin Luther King Jr.: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be? Will we be extremists for love or hate?” In a time where ‘Christians’ are seen holding “God hates fags” signs, it’s no wonder we are portrayed as war mongering haters destroying the church….because we are. We live in a world where it’s considerably more courageous to die killing than it is to die loving. But Claiborne calls for a new type of extremist, Christians who are obsessed with love and grace. Because “the only thing harder than hatred is love.”
The author is calling us followers of Christ to completely flip our view of the gospel upside down and start small, not big. In a nation where we super-size everything, Claiborne is asking us to look a little closer at Jesus’ ‘mustard seed,’ and make things smaller, not bigger. “We can’t do great things. Only small things with great love.” -Mother Theresa.
This book is packed full of scripture and real life mind-blowing stories that will at the very least, challenge your view of Christianity, if it doesn’t spark you to go out and change the world and be the church. I’ll leave you with a quote from the book that is quite hauntingly true. It’s time to wake up church! We CAN change the world.
“There is enough money in the world to meet everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”