If we follow Jesus Christ, we’re called to live such a radically loving and sacrificial “I will die for you” lifestyle that the broken world can’t ignore us – and in fact will be drawn to us to ask us why we are the way we are. Because what they see in us makes them want what – or Who – we’ve got.
Radically loving? I’m not sure that’s the phrase most non-believing types would use to describe those of us who believe. Weird, whacked out, hypocritical, arrogant, mean, pushy, out of touch, narrow minded, racist, exclusive – these are the terms way too often attached to Jesus followers in our era. At least that has been my experience.
But amazingly, everywhere I go I meet believers who really, truly desire to live in a radically loving way. They are about it. But they’re frustrated because they think they aren’t doing enough or they get sidetracked or discouraged and somehow end up back in “Christian Pleasantville”, living “casual Jesus” and just trying to stay out of trouble.
And they wonder why. Lack of faith? Not enough discipline? Need more Bible study? A better worship experience? Better preaching? They wonder why they struggle to radically love.
And I think I know the answer. I believe we struggle to radically love…because we aren’t radically in love. At least that’s what Peter says in his first letter to believers scattered all over ancient Asia Minor. In the opening lines of I Peter, he reminds his brothers and sisters that they are called to live radically loving lives for “…Jesus Christ, whom having not seen, you love.” [I Peter 1:8]
This is the same Peter who failed to live radically for Jesus just a few short years earlier. He stood just a few feet from where his best friend Jesus was being questioned and tortured by Caiphas and his henchmen and when a little girl questioned him about knowing Jesus, he denied him. Three times. And then went out and wept bitterly. But Jesus pursued Peter and forgave him and when they reunited, he asked him only one question: “Do you love me, Peter?” And when Peter said, “You know I do, Lord”, Jesus said, “Then go out and feed my sheep.”
Peter got it. To radically love…we’ve got to be radically in love. We will do much for those we believe in. But we will do anything – even crazy, radical, sacrificial stuff that seems nuts to this world – in behalf of One we love. Truth be told, even as I write these words I’m in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon feeling lonely and depressed on many levels for many deep and real reasons. A friend just died. Many of my other friends and brothers and sisters in Christ are really hurting and my heart hurts with them. Not just my brothers and sisters here in the States – but in Iraq, in Niger, in the Sudan. Today, it is true that believing in Jesus Christ keeps me from total despair. But only “believing” won’t motivate me to do much else. It certainly won’t motivate me to radically love.
But I don’t just believe in Him. I love Him. So, I’m headed to the Oregon coast in an hour to teach and emotionally connect with a group of students at a small college – amazing young men and women who are desperate to understand the meaning of life and to make a difference in the lives of others. They expect and need something from me for their own deep wounds and relationships and the spiritual battles they are facing. It’s not the Sudan – but it’s a corner of the war with our enemy that God has called me to this week in history. The reason I’m going – and will give my life and my gut and my tears and any love I have away to these precious students – is because I love Him. Because it is true for any of us in any era, in any part of the spiritual battle, anywhere – and I believe it is true for you, my brother and sister, in your situation, wherever you are today and whatever you are facing – we will only radically love…if we are radically in love.