For the last two months, my life has been moving at warp speed. Every waking moment seems to be spent watching my children, looking for signs that their grief is overwhelming them. I haven’t taken the time to watch the news, and have in many ways withdrawn from the world in which I live.
Today, that changed.
I heard a few blurbs about a shooting in Orlando yesterday, but I did not understand the magnitude of the situation.
It wasn’t until I found myself captive in a doctor’s office with my daughter this morning that I began to hear the harrowing accounts of a madman entering a club and senselessly killing 50 people. My heart began to ache. I began to read a number of articles about the shooting. My anger raged even as the tears streamed down my face.
Before the death toll was even tallied, the rallying cries began. Support gun control. Ban all Muslims. Finger-pointing commenced: Donald Trump spews hatred. President Obama refuses to say, “Islamic Terrorist.”
And as I began to examine the issue, my mind went straight to one word: Extremism.
There are extremists in every sect of our society. There are Muslims who are extremists, those who are bent on destroying anyone whose beliefs contradict their own. There are Christians who are extremists, those who spew hatred in the name of the God I love. There are heterosexuals who believe it is their job to eliminate anyone who supports the LGBT agenda.
Let’s go even further than this attack. There are black extremists who are bent on killing law enforcement officers simply because they wear the uniform. There are white extremists who seek to destroy others for the color of their skin. There are Democrats who seek to demonize their opponents. And there are Republicans who will stop at nothing in their effort to destroy the Democrats.
My heart aches as I look at the division in our country, as I grapple with the hatred for anyone whose opinions might differ from our own. Many times the cry of “tolerance” seems to fall from the mouths of those who seem so intolerant of anyone different from themselves.
I want to end extremism.
Until I suddenly remember the most radical extremist of all time, Jesus Christ.
Yes, my Lord and Savior, the One I have pledged to love and serve with all my heart, was the most radical extremist of all time. He came to this earth and turned it upside down with His radical teachings and counter-cultural way of thinking.
And I can’t help but wonder what this world would look like if we could all follow His radical way of living.
I see at least three areas in which He was radical.
Jesus was radical about God. Jesus Christ entered this world at a time when the Pharisees had hi-jacked God’s people and heaped a ton of rules and regulations upon people. The Pharisees made it so difficult to walk with God, making decisions about what was acceptable and what was not. They had the final judgmental say in all religious matters.
But, when Jesus entered this world, He shook it up. He turned the tables on the Pharisees, pointing out that while their actions might make them appear righteous, their hearts were actually far from God (Matthew 23:27). His harshest words were aimed at the self-righteous leaders of the day, as He sought to turn the religious establishment on its head.
Instead, Jesus said it was all about God, all about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). He gave us an example to follow by always making time to get away and spend time with the Father (Matthew 26). He made sure that He was doing only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19).
Jesus had a single-minded devotion to a relationship with the Father, and the Father never led Him astray. If only we as Christians could follow His example.
Jesus was radical about people. When Jesus walked this earth, He was radical about people. He was radical about the outcasts of society. He was radical about the orphans and widows. He was radical about the poor and the down-trodden. He was radical about the helpless. He was radical about sinners.
Instead of an eye for an eye, Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. Instead of stoning the adulterer, He set free the woman caught in adultery. Instead of turning His back on tax collectors like Zaccheus and Matthew, He called them to join Him. Instead of condemning the woman at the well who had five husbands, He offered her living water.
Jesus was radical about His love for people. He was radical about pouring out mercy and grace. He didn’t tell them to change their ways so He could love them; He loved them just as they were (Romans 5:8). His extravagant love was poured out on those who needed compassion and acceptance long before He pointed out their sins.
As Christians, it can be tough to balance the calls to love and truth. I stumble as I try to figure out how to hold tightly to my Christian beliefs while loving those in a different camp. One thing I always try to remember is that truth is foolishness to those who do not believe and therefore I cannot expect a non-Christian to adhere to my values (1 Corinthians 1:18). I cannot expect anyone to conform to my way of life unless I show them the radical love demonstrated by my Savior. And, after they experience His radical love, I can trust that He will transform them to His image as they seek to know Him better. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin, not mine.
Jesus was radical about purpose. Today, we hear so much about ISIS being radically committed to converting the world to Islam and eliminating anything contrary to its belief system. As much as we hate the ways, you have to admit that followers are committed to their purpose.
Jesus was also radically committed to His purpose. He came with His mind set on saving humanity, on bridging the gap between a Holy God and a sinful people. He came to show us that it is possible to live in communion with the Father, to live a life that points the world back to Him. He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). And absolutely nothing could deter Him from His purpose.
What would this world look like if we, as Christians, could join together and be just as radically committed to our purpose of loving others into the family of God? What if we put aside all political allegiances, prejudices, and preconceived notions and chose to be radically committed to winning others to Christ, to furthering the Kingdom of God? What if we had a single-minded devotion to living our lives in such a way that pointed the world back to Christ at all costs? What if we simply reached across the aisle and joined hands with those who ultimately want the same thing we do? What if…
I am certain that if we were as radically committed to our purpose as what Christ was that we would see this world transformed by the God we serve.
Radicalism is alive and well in so many segments of society. Perhaps it’s time for us as Christians to recognize that we are called to a radical love and commitment to our God. Perhaps it is time we let Him do a radical transformation in us and through us. Perhaps it is time we, too, become the most radical extremists this world has ever seen.