When I was studying at the University of Tulsa, I took an elective course in Semantics. It was known to be an easy ‘A’, but BORING. While fellow students openly snoozed around me, I plopped myself in the front row, soaking up the history of the meaning of words, how meaning changes so that some meanings become archaic. I began to understand why Latin was a dead language, word meanings never change, and English was a living language, adding new words and changing word meanings. Once a nerd, always a nerd.
I am also a RADICAL in the manner of Billy Graham, who once in the 1950’s had a choir at one of his rallies in the South that was decidedly mixed races. Concerned citizens counseled Dr. Graham that to not continue with the plan. One even told him ‘he would set Christianity back a hundred years.’ To which, Dr. Graham replied, ‘that would be a shame. I intended to set it back 2000 years.’
This morning this scripture,
“Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.
The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
I and the Father are one.”
John 10:25-30 NIV,
was in my devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.
The word that popped into my head to describe Jesus was ‘Radical‘. Not a popular description in today’s world, but I couldn’t shake it.
Jesus was speaking to religious leaders, who were appalled by his inflammatory statements, his challenges of the status quo, by the way he talked to them. Frankly, the charge that they were not his sheep probably thrilled them since everyone knew how stupid sheep are unlike goats who are clever little fellows, independent rascals. I am really editorializing here.
Anyway I did what I often do which was to follow the etymology of the word from the root, which by the way is what the latin word meant.
“Late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (see radish ). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s”
As an aside, interesting to me, but undoubtedly not a lot of folks, one antonym for radical is superficial.
Jesus challenged the deviations and misinterpretations prevalent in religious practices of the Jewish leaders, with its ceremony, exclusiveness, and legalism. Not what God had intended. While the years of captivity in Babylon and then under the Persians had wiped out every trace of polytheism establishing the Jews as absolutely monotheistic, the human response was to slam the doors to foreign influence and rigidly enforce the LAW. To deviate or allow for flexibility might bring again the wrath of God. These were not leaders who could allow a teacher (rabbi) from a decidedly mixed region to heal on the Sabbath or equate himself with God.
The sheep might follow and be led off a cliff, but the old goats, who enforced Jewish Law without any mercy on their fellow Jews, would not. And yet later and even today many of the old goats both Jews and Gentiles have been transformed into yielding sheep.
I am a radical sheep following with my eyes wide open, my ears alert, and my heart struggling to beat in rhythm with the Radical Shepherd, I follow. I get distracted. I hear other voices. I don’t always love or pray for my enemy…or even worse, my friends. But I have heard his voice and I know that only he has the words of life.
So today I am thankful to be a RADICAL dumb sheep following the One who said, ‘By this they will know you are my dumb sheep because you will love one another as I have loved you.’ [paraphrase, completely Carolyn]
Beats Superficial anytime!