Critics often call avant-garde movies and books “edgy”. Unfortunately, this usually means they are obscene or morally offensive, but “edgy” can mean cutting-edge and innovative. In this latter sense, it is good to be an edgy Christian.
I must admit, however, I have been tempted to be an edgy Christian in some foolish ways. I like to prove to non-Christians how culturally relevant and hip I can be, that I’m not prudish or illiterate. But this stuff can easily move me to the edge of holiness and purity when I should be pressing further in and further up.
Edges, however, can be the place where we discover life. This is certainly true in the natural world. Where the forest ends and meadows begin is where wildlife is most abundant. Along the shore, life covers every rock and teems in every tide pool. In a similar way there are edges where believers will discover abundant life.
I want to live on the edge of faith and presumption. Think about the centurion who amazed Jesus with his faith (Matthew 8:5—13). Jesus said he would go to the centurion’s house and heal his servant, but the centurion tells Jesus that he need not come to his house, he can just speak the word and his servant will be healed. It seems a little presumptuous to tell Jesus how to heal someone, but this is the only time when someone’s faith amazed Jesus. This is edgy.
Peter’ request to walk on the water to Jesus is obviously presumptuous. Even today if we say someone thinks they can walk on water, it isn’t a compliment. Who did Peter think he was when he asked Jesus to call him out onto the water? But Jesus said, “Come” and that blessed word gave Peter the courage to step over the edge of the boat. That’s the kind of edginess I want.
I want to live on the edge of generosity and foolishness. I want to be edgy like Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus. When Jesus said he was coming to his house, he said, “Look, half my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” I want to this to be my response to Jesus being in my house—and life.
I also love the woman who broke the alabaster jar and poured expensive perfume on Jesus. Disciples, especially Judas, criticized the waste of money—money that could have helped the poor. Practical considerations were ignored. We don’t know whether the woman was wealthy or poor, but either way, she gave an extravagant gift that had to set her back financially. Jesus told the critics to “leave her alone” because she had done a “beautiful thing.” I want to be wasted on Jesus. I want to be edgy enough to do a “beautiful thing” for Jesus.
I also want to live on edge of grace and obedience. I want to fling myself into energetic obedience to God’s Word and the voice of the Holy Spirit while staying completely at rest in the free gift of salvation. I think this is the edge where life is abundant, but I know there are dangers. Obedience can slide into legalism, then pride or condemnation. Resting in God’s grace can slide into complacency and barren passivity. But when radical obedience is powered by a revelation of the depths of God’s grace, we experience the abundant life God intended.
Paul embodies this kind of edginess. No one understood the grace of God better. Paul knew he has been loved and sought by God even when he was busy persecuting the church. He knew his salvation was a gift of grace. And yet his response was to live a poured out life for God and others.
I want to live on the edge of contentment and spiritual hunger. This is hard, but important. I desire a heart that is always overflowing with thanksgiving. I do not want to be blind to all God’s blessings. As I cry out to God for more of His kingdom and more of his Holy Spirit’s power, I do not want to despise “the day of small beginnings.” It is important to treasure every whisper of His Spirit.
But those desperate for more of God risk being accused of ingratitude by others. I like the Syro-Phoenician woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer and had the courage to tell Jesus that even the dogs get crumbs from the table. And no-longer-blind Bartimaeus who just wouldn’t shut-up. And Paul who near the end of his ministry declared, “I press on to take hold that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
These kinds of edginess can make a Christian truly avant-garde–God’s advance guard. Not one who waits to catch a wave of the Spirit, but one who makes waves.