A few weeks ago, my neighbor drove his car into my daughter’s bedroom. A refugee from Southeast Asia, he had gotten the pedals confused. He spoke no English and appeared distraught after the accident. I tried to comfort him as best as I could while inspecting the cracks in our apartment walls. My manager came by and told me we were lucky—most times, the cars crash all the way through, but our apartment had suffered no real structural damage. I tried to feel grateful, but it was difficult. Cars careening into homes was just one of the realities that I could not have anticipated before living and working with refugee communities in the United States.
But even if somebody had told me all that I would experience as I set off to follow Jesus—that cars would crash into my daughter’s bedroom in our apartment, for example—I’m not sure I would have paid attention anyway. That is the beauty, as well as the great flaw, of setting out to do big and great things for God. It is time, and time alone, that reveals whether or not the conversion ever turned into something real.
The past decade has seen an explosion of all things “radical” as it relates to following Christ—often tied to social justice, inequality, wealth, and, more often than not, Shane Claiborne. In 2006, the Eastern University graduate authored The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. It sparked a small, passionate group of “mostly 20-somethings who long for community, intimacy with Jesus, and to love those on the margins of society,” as this magazine described the movement in 2005. In introducing modern readers to the desert mothers and fathers, Francis of Assisi, ...