He was the son of a wealthy Italian merchant. To describe him as a spoiled unmanageable rich kid is an understatement. He lived the wasteful wanton lifestyle of a rock star in his day, and like a rock star, he had his own posse, a large band of equally spoiled adolescents who traveled and partied hard with him night after night.
But to the greater dismay of his father and his companions, he had a miraculous encounter with Jesus Christ, and his life was forever changed. He read in the Gospels that Jesus told His followers:
Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Matthew 19:24
Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. Luke 9:3
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24
And so, taking these commandments of Christ as his “rule of life,” Francis abandoned his wealth, giving all but the clothes on his back away, and even that was taken from him by a thief, leaving him cold and naked and running into the forest for his life. Finally, he cut off the ties to his father, forsaking his inheritance, and set out to follow Jesus.
The radical call of Francis to take Christ’s command to give everything away and minister to the poor in order to serve Christ attracted many followers. They came from all over Europe joining him in what eventually became known as the Franciscan order. His radical commitment to Christ and doing the works of Christ marked his life from the day of his conversion until his death at 43 years of age. It is said that on his deathbed, he asked that all of his clothing be removed so that he could die naked in the same shameful way Jesus died.
There is something attractive about that, is there not, in a call to live heroically and to do something radical for God? I am of the opinion that it is actually easier to recruit people for something that is big, something that captures the imagination, than it is for something that is deemed ordinary in the Kingdom of God. And yet, I believe that while God may occasionally call on someone to do a great thing, it is not the first thing to which He calls anyone. In fact it is not to the extra-ordinarily great thing but to the ordinary business of living a holy life, a life devoted to God 24/7, that we as followers of Jesus have been called. Oswald Chambers put it this way,
“The sense of sacrifice appeals readily to a young Christian. Humanly speaking, the one thing that attracts to Jesus Christ is our sense of the heroic,…” […but then he says…]
“…the scrutiny of our Lord’s words suddenly brings this tide of enthusiasm to the test, ‘First be reconciled to thy brother’” [Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, “The ‘Go’ of Preparation,” September 24th].
How ordinary is that? In other words the primary call of God is not to do some great thing or to make some great sacrifice, but to live in right relationship with Him and with others. Then again, that sounds quite extraordinary does it not?