I was thumbing through a Christian magazine the other day when I came across a full-page ad that I thought was for a mission organization. Turns out it was actually an ad for an insurance company. But I didn’t notice at the time because three-quarters of the page was taken up by the picture of a young person, possibly of college age, who was about to eat a large green bug. The youth in the photograph was wearing sunglasses, a hat and sported a large, toothy grin. The insect, which looked like it might be a grasshopper, was almost as wide as her smile. My first thought when I saw the picture was that if it was me, I would not be smiling. I have no desire to eat bugs, not even for the glory of God.
I’m not saying that I would never eat a bug. A few years ago I walked into the chapel service at Moody and saw my friend Ray standing there holding something that looked like corn curls. “What are you eating?” I asked. He handed me a couple and I popped them in my mouth, remembering too late that Ray was the chairman of the missions department. “What are these?” I asked, against my better judgment. “Fried caterpillars” Ray replied, with a grin not unlike the one displayed by the girl in the magazine ad. Had I known that, I would not have asked. But by then it was too late to change my mind. Pride and trajectory compelled me to suffer the consequences of my ill-conceived question. As the little morsels landed on my tongue, I managed to ask, “Should I chew or swallow?” “If you want to experience their full flavor, you need to chew them” Ray replied. I did not want to experience their full flavor.
As you can probably tell, I am not a thrill seeker. I don’t hunger for new experiences. When I go to the restaurant, I want to have something I have ordered off the menu before. That way I know I’ll like it. Don’t get me wrong, I like adventure as much as the next guy. I just prefer mine in a novel. I suppose I should be bolder. After all, it was my generation that made radical chic. I came of age in the era of mass demonstrations. But I wasn’t very radical even then. While others were marching for free speech, and civil rights, carrying signs and demanding that we get our troops out of Viet Nam, the only demonstration that I remember participating in was one to change the dress code in my high school. I did hitch hike to Lansing, Michigan once but only for the weekend. The truth is I didn’t really enjoy the experience. I was relieved when we were picked up by the police for thumbing a ride on the expressway and deposited on a safer road a few miles from where we lived. The convenience was worth the price of the ticket the officer gave me.
Maybe that’s why I am more interested in ordinary faith than in radical Christianity. Because it seems to me that the areas where I have the most trouble obeying are in the ordinary circumstances of life. Things like, showing love to that annoying co-worker. Or showing love to that person who thinks that I am that annoying co-worker. Laying down my life for my spouse and my children. Forgiving that person who has slighted me. Would I eat a bug for Jesus? I suppose so, but not willingly. To tell you the truth, many of the things I already do for Jesus seem harder than that. Does that make me a radical?