What is living the Christian life supposed to look like? If we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, how different should our life look? In his book Unleashed: Release the Untamed Faith Within, Erwin McManus seeks to answer those questions using an unlikely metaphor: a barbarian.
Previously released as The Barbarian Way, McManus argues that the life of the Christian should not be about getting all of life’s comforts or about awaiting our lives to start in the next. Instead he sees the power of the Christian life as one which challenges us to live dangerously, to take risks, and to discover uncharted territory in our world. Essentially, McManus teaches that to live the Christian life means to be a daredevil, and those who are not taking grand scale risks are not living the life that Christ died for us to live.
Jesus never made a pristine call to a proper or safe religion. Jesus beckons His followers to a path that is far from the easy road. It is a path filled with adventure, uncertainty, and unlimited possibilities–the only path that can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of your heart.
McManus suggests a life where the self is at the center and excitement is the goal. In effort to challenge people to live more passionate lives, he ends up presenting a template for a lifestyle of adventure as the standard. The examples he uses (including encouraging his son to jump off the roof of their house and a new convert to risk being attacked by a shark to be baptised) go beyond common sense and do not follow examples from the Bible.
Granted, people in Scripture and for centuries have given their lives for the Gospel of Christ. But they lived sensibly and offered their lives when necessary, not for a thrill. They did sacrificed themselves in life and in death for the truth of God to be shared to the ends of the earth. As the Apostle Paul, who gave his life for the gospel, said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).
Heart in the Right Place
While I am frustrated by his arguments, I share McManus’s discouragement with what looks like an epidemic of apathy and listlessness in our churches. I have had numerous conversations with church members and pastors about sparking people with passion and the abundance of life that Christ talked about. How can the church be the light of the world if it is shining so dimly?
People like RC Sproul, Jerry Bridges, and Tullian Tchividjian have latched on to the biblical gospel as the final word. If we make a diligent discipline at preaching and teaching the gospel, we succeed in soaking our friends, family, and church memmbers with an assurance of salvation.
We are sinners, in desparate need of salvation. The Bible clearly teaches us that at the Fall, Adam’s sin brought the penalty of sin on all of humankind (Genesis 3). There is no spark of good in any person, but we are all naturally haters of God, seeking our own way (Romans 3). Ralph Venning reminds us that sin is worse than death, because sin now and forever can separate us from God. Any effort we give is in vain; it never measures up to the splendor of God (Romans 3:23). We are completely without hope except for Christ (John 14:6). Jesus did not die to teach us a better way to live, Socrates could have done that. He did not die to make our life easy and comfortable, as McManus rightly asserts. But he also did not die to give us an exciting adventure to live.
Jesus died so that we may be freed from bondage to sin and set right with God (Romans 6). When we understand the ugliness, the sinfulness of our sin and then soak ourselves in the glory of the gospel, the power of God incarate, and his atoning work on our behalf, I dare say none could sit still.
The passion of the Christian life lies in the contemplation of our sin in light of the amazing and indelible work of the gospel. This is where we find the barbaric passion that McManus longs to see in those who believe. The Christian life should never be about waiting until God remakes the world, but it should be about sharing the good news of the love of God with everyone we know.
If we are to live a barbaric life, let us live that life to Christ by making every moment a bold testimony to his completed work on the cross.