September 11, 2013 marks the 12th year since the coordinated attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. While many such terrorist attacks have been launched all over the world, none have affected the American psyche more than the events popularly referred to as “9/11.”
The terrorists behind these attacks have been identified with the Islamic “religious extremists” known as Al Qaeda. Since then much rhetoric has been uttered against religious extremism of any kind, including (and for some especially) Christianity. Many would say that religion is “okay” as long as one does not become overly committed and devoted to one’s faith. One popular argument is that such devotion will only lead to the kind of actions done by terrorists. So religious fanaticism is strongly discouraged.
A fanatic is defined as “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, esp. for an extreme religious or political cause.” While I agree with the concern against violence motivated by religion, I also dare to raise the question: “Of what value is my faith in Christ if I am not completely devoted to him?” The suggestion (or coercion) to “tone down” my faith directly contradicts the call of Christ for me to surrender my all to him.
Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9.23 ESV). Anything less than complete devotion and absolute submission to Christ and his leadership is not true Christian discipleship. The apostle Paul exhorts every believer: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12.11 NIV).
Many fear that all-out Christian devotion is no different to that of the religious extremism of terrorists. Such fear is grounded in a false understanding of true Christianity. Disciples of Christ are never called to “defend” their religion at all costs—even if it means resorting to violent action to protect the religion’s “advantage” in this world. Rather, disciples are called to follow Christ and his way no matter what the cost—even if it means being at a disadvantage—to fulfill the purpose of the gospel to restore all things to a harmonious relationship with God and with one another. And the way of Christ is the way of the Cross; it is the only way that leads to the Resurrection. Not all who act “in the name of Christ” are true followers of Christ. Yet true followers of Christ will give their all for him. No one can ever be “extreme” in following and serving Christ. There is no other way.
—Keith Y. Jainga