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November 15, 2017

Crazy Christians not just an Amherst product

I’m starting to notice that there is a fairly large amount of crazy Christians at the University of Massachusetts. Some sacrifice their free time to sit behind tables in the Campus Center, providing information and opportunities for interested individuals wanting to learn more. Others are bold enough to stand on a crate to endure a slew of negativity while making proclamations through a megaphone. These crazy Christians intrigue me. Not because of their actions that everyone can see, but it’s their underlining motivation that can’t be seen by the uninformed eye that get me wondering. What drives a person to stand out of the cultural step, inviting judgment and ridicule from others?

At first I thought that these wild and crazy Christians were just following a fad. Maybe standing up for what you believe in was just the American-driven, postmodern thing to do. But then I was told about a website called JoshuaProject.net that lists crazy Christians on an international scale who put their necks out in countries we only see in National Geographic. The website speaks of people risking not just their collegiate social reputation, but their very lives, all hinging on the same truth that crazy Christians on campus lean on.

Is  this “acting out” of Christians a new thing? With some research, I found that it wasn’t – Christians actually have a knack for public displays of faith that make observers feel awkward.

A couple of months ago, I preached a sermon on the New Testament book of Acts, a 28-chapter account of the very beginning of the Christian church. Confession booths, Sunday school, “Jesus camp” and First Communions haven’t existed since the beginning of time, and the book of Acts shows what the church was like before these modern adaptations came.

The particular portion of Acts that I went through was at the end of chapter 18 and on through the beginning of chapter 19. In the section of Luke’s historic account, we hear about the church at Ephesus. According to Nathan Cartel, the pastor of Vita Nova in Amherst, the church at Ephesus is one of the most closely studied churches not just because it was one of the first churches to ever exist, but because it is mentioned in seven different books of the bible.

Some of the Christians in Ephesus were crazy, maybe crazier than the ones on campus today. At one point, Luke writes, “Many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to 50,000 pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”

What these Ephesians do is nuts. They’re going out into public and sharing with each other the crap that they have been associated with and setting evidence of their old lives ablaze. I mean, imagine if some Christians today bought into the Gospel and the new life available in it so much that they took all of their weed, porn and any other evidence of their old life to the Southwest Residential Area beach and set it on fire. They wouldn’t sell it, give it away or hide it on a shelf, but would remove it completely from existence because they believed there was something infinitely better.

The Ephesians rest so firmly in the truth of the Gospel that they have no shame whatsoever. With the new perspective on their lives in light of Jesus and the Cross, they are free from the junk that chained them down to death. To the onlooker walking by, however, they are straight up out of their freaking minds.

For the Ephesians who turned away from their old lives and onto Jesus in a radical fashion, they had to have some sort of motivation. It wasn’t a man yelling at them to burn their stuff that made them do it, it was a natural response in their hearts when they understood just a piece of the Gospel.

Why read something if you’re not challenged by it? Challenged to learn more, challenged to make a change or just challenged to challenge yourself. To the crazy Christian: Are the things that you are doing natural reactions your constant discovery of what the Gospel means and are they done out of raw love? Sometimes it’s easier to be bold than to be genuine, and the latter is more than important.

To the non-crazy Christian: Do you understand how much it means to have God love you so much as to step into flesh and die for you? I don’t. But if we did, I think it would show.

To the non-Christian: What these crazy Christians have that allows them to live free is available to you as well. If you want it, keep pursuing truth and explore the depth that is the Gospel. Thanks for reading.

Thomas Moore is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at tjmoore@student.umass.edu.

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