In our last post, How Churches Enable Conditional Love we began to paint the portrait of a person who loves like Jesus. What does it look like to demonstrate a love so radical that the world would consider you “odd for God”?
If being a “Jesus freak” means I’m so filled with the Holy Spirit that I take WWJD to its literal and logical extreme, then count me in. If it’s my fanatical love that fulfills the promise made in John 15 and John 17 that the world will hate me, sign me up. But if that hatred of me stems from the prevailing perception of most Christians, that I’m legalistic and judgmental – then shame on me.
Jesus beautifully portrays the pure, unconditional love we should seek to emulate. No one possesses enough “goodness” to replicate the unadulterated, Agape love He modeled, but through the power of Christ in us, we can do what is humanly impossible…
1. Doing what you hate most for those who can’t return the favor
The undefiled sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross was unblemished by any concern about self-preservation – driven only by unfathomable love and desire to redeem a world that had almost universally rejected His Father.
Few defy natural fight-or-flight impulses in the face of extreme danger. Andrew Brunson, an American pastor currently imprisoned in Turkey under false charges of trying to overthrow the government, stood his ground and resisted the urge to flee. He has publicly forgiven his captors and accusers. At every opportunity, Pastor Brunson is glorifying God, sharing the Gospel and professing that “It is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ.”
2. So much empathy for those suffering that you can’t sit still and watch
Jesus desires compassion even more than sacrifice (Matthew 9:13) Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with “patient” and “kind”. Jesus went well out of His way and endured countless “inconvenient interruptions” to heal nearly every ailing person that believed He had the ability to restore them to health.
Rich Mullins wrote one of the most popular praise and worship songs of our time, “(Our God is an) Awesome God”, and had the opportunity to pocket millions, but donated nearly every dollar to charity. Rich was known to literally give the shirt off his back and the shoes on his feet to anyone in need. He walked away at the height of his fame to teach music to children on a Native American reservation. For Rich Mullins love was not just an emotion, it was a genuine concern for others that drove him to unimaginably compassionate actions.
3. Forgiving egregious personal affronts without any hope of an apology
1 Corinthians goes on to describe love as keeping “no record of wrongs”. No man has had license or occasion to forgive as many offenses against Himself as Christ. Betrayed by His closest friends, rejected by those He came to save, executed unjustly by priests entrusted with the prophesies He fulfilled, Jesus marched forward unwaveringly and undeterred to His predetermined fate.
Alissa and Robbie Parker’s daughter Emilie was in 1st grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School when she was coldly murdered by a crazed gunman. Emilie’s parents embodied Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-36, not only forgiving the perpetrator but launching a national ministry, writing a book and starting a blog to help others experience faith, hope and healing in the face of unspeakable tragedy.
4. Seeking the welfare of the most unsavory character you know
Jesus eagerly pursued tax collectors and prostitutes. He turned the tables on the self-righteous, directing His ire at them and not at those they were condemning.
The mission of CREATED is to “restore vulnerable women involved in the sex industry to an understanding of their value, beauty and destiny in Jesus Christ”. CREATED treats the seemingly dishonorable with dignity – looking beyond actions that incite either lust or ridicule to see a soul made in God’s image, more desperate for a Savior than those standing in judgment of their disreputable behavior.
These people are weird – for Christ. It would be unsettling if the Lord expected that kind of radical love of all His followers. I contend that He does…
Less Religious and More Godly…
Being more like Christ and less “Christian” is the path for believers to become known as more joyful than judgmental, compassionate than condemning, and hopeful than hypocritical. As shown above in the 4 Agape examples, we can love like Jesus. But as we discussed in our last blog post, it will require a significant departure from prevailing church growth models.
Equipping congregations to love unconditionally and putting an end to cultural Christianity will entail…
- Praying fervently for the power of the Holy Spirit to fill each believer, because Agape is only possible through Christ in us
- Teaching church members to see people as souls made in God’s image so we can stop judging others based on appearances and actions
- Developing an aggressive plan to grow believers beyond conversion into disciples of Jesus Christ
- Redefining “church” as people and not a place, putting responsibility back on congregants for being the personification of “church” between Sundays
- Fighting the culture war in America with a “ground war” (with love as the chosen weapon) rather than the current “air war” (of opinions and politics)
- Reallocating time, talents and treasures toward uses that emphasize not only love for those who love us, but also love for those who may not like us
- No longer counting heads but tracking transformation, evangelism and community impact
The challenge of reversing course in those 7 ways, eliminating man-made religion and restoring Christ-likeness, is complicated by the loss of access to churchgoers today. In an effort to cater to busy schedules and retain members, pastors have made church more convenient and comfortable – conditioning congregants to give less of their valuable time to discipleship and disciple-making, the primary prerequisites for learning to love like Jesus. Modern adaptations and conventions for running institutional “church” have modified and misdirected love, steering it toward a lower level of commitment than Jesus modeled or intended.
It’s Your Turn…
Please share a story of radical, fanatical love you’ve witnessed in your community.