Guts and glory

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When I was a boy, I had one toy I valued over all others: Action Man. I had the Action Man space suit, deep sea diver kit, jungle explorer outfit, the English and the German army uniforms, a parachute that actually worked, Scots Guards and Grenadier Guards uniforms, and the scuba diving set—with bright orange wetsuit, tiny goggles, diving knife, air tanks and flippers. I played endlessly with this most manly of, let’s face it, dolls. I imbued Action Man with all my hopes and dreams for a life of guts and glory. 

Now here I am in mid-life; never having been attacked by wild lions, no wartime acts of daring to my name, no skydiving, deep sea diving, sovereign guarding or space walking. I’ve had a few adventures, granted, but not quite in the vein of my childhood imagination.

And to this day, His life remains the greatest example of an eventful, challenging, adventurous and meaningful life in the history of the world.

When I look back at those wild backyard adventures there is one thing I never imagined Action Man being—a courageous follower of Christ. Why? Maybe it’s because I confused Christianity with being a respectable, polite member of the middle class. Christianity, to my boyhood brain, was all about respect for authority, obedience and civility. 

But, it turns out, the Christ of the Bible was none of these. He had no problem calling the leaders of His day liars, fools and hypocrites—where is the deference in that? And as for civility, He physically attacked the moneychangers and bluntly confronted the dominant paradigms of His day. And as for living a middle class life? He was as far away from it as you could get. 

He was, it turns out, the ultimate action Man. And to this day, His life remains the greatest example of an eventful, challenging, adventurous and meaningful life in the history of the world.

But all I saw as a boy was “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, swaddled in monotony and stuffiness. And let’s face it, when you’re a boy, that’s hardly the challenging sort of thing you’re aspiring to. 

Around the world, however, I’ve run into some impressively radical Christians. I thought that may end when we settled back into staid Wahroonga, but my colleague, Kent Kingston, has thankfully brought radical Christians to me via the guests he books for the InFocus TV program. 

In just the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Valerie Browning, an Australian nurse who married into a nomadic tribe in Ethiopia and has been working with them for decades to improve their health and education. Then there was the “machine gun preacher”, Sam Childers, who upon accepting Christ, took on the cause of the threatened children of southern Sudan in the most direct manner—by shooting back at the militias trying to abduct them. I’m not sure if the shooting equates to Christ attacking the moneychangers or to Peter cutting off an ear, but I do know Sam Childers is credited with saving the lives of more than 1000 vulnerable, precious little children. 

Then there was Jon and Lisa Owen, who left their middle class roots to live in a troubled area of Sydney for no reason other than to provide practical love and care for drug addicts, victims of abuse, alcoholics and anyone else who needs a place to stay, a friend and something good to eat. 

Each one of these impressively unique Christians inspires me to be a radical Christian in the unique way God is leading. To me, that means standing up and being brave about my faith, even when it’s mocked by society. I never want to be ashamed of the Gospel, even the parts that are inconvenient. I want to use every ounce of talent God has entrusted to me in His cause. I aim to live an authentic faith that may not always be pretty or polite, but consistently emulates the rough and tumble life of my Saviour. I don’t want my life to be built around the boring rituals and manners of middle class life. No, I want to have the guts to be a radical disciple; I’ll trust Christ to take care of the glory.  

James Standish is communication director for the South Pacific Division.