Matthew 22:34-40, John 14:15, John 15:9-14, 1 John 3:16, 23 and 4:7-19, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Today, “radicalism” and/or “extremism” have become the buzz words for all that is wrong with religion and politics in this world. In attempting to define religious extremism we are often drawn to the forms of extremism that are easiest to identify. We see some cutting off the heads of others and equate them with those protesting at gay funerals. We see them both as “extreme”. What we mean is that the extremities of that faith or religion being expressed is beyond what we think is “right” or “acceptable” to us, thus, it is “extreme” or “radical”. That is always seen as something to avoid and has become a buzz word or epithet we fling at those whom we wish to demonize, isolate or marginalize. And frankly, some deserve it. In other words; the extremist is not to be tolerated in the company of civilized or enlightened people. It is often seen as persons less intelligent, more “backwards”, unenlightened” or regressive.
So the “center”, the non-confrontational, non-threatening and definitely non-violent path is the way of intelligent, enlightened or modern civilized people. I hope that definition makes sense, I’m not saying I have it all right, but I’m just trying to set the stage using current social, political and religious hot buttons to make my points. Now, as a Christian, (And that is how I identify myself, born again, evangelical, follower of Jesus and whatever other tag line I can think of) I see Christian extremism like this…
The most radical and extreme manifestation of Christianity is love. I have often thought that dying for your faith is easy, at least compared with living your faith truthfully. In other religions the most extreme or radical manifestation may be in killing or being killed while in battle defending your faith. It may be in silent meditation and joining with “the void” or “enlightenment”. But as a follower of Christ, our ultimate goal and goals are found in the manifestation of His love, first recognized and received in ourselves, and then turned outward to others.
Now, let me point out one crucial thing that I think that many have trouble with. Love is not approval. Anyone who has children will understand this. (I don’t have any so that makes me an expert!) Your children will do many things in life that you wish they would not. They may even do things terribly offensive, unlawful or even repugnant, yet, they never cease to be your children and you will always love them though you may not approve of their behavior. This is seen when Jesus is confronted by the religious experts of His day with a woman caught in the act of adultery. In John 8:10-11, while Jesus does not condemn her, neither does He approve of her behavior, He says to her; “…go and sin no more.”
While love is the most extreme and radical manifestation of Christianity, that should not be confused with approval. Christians often say; “Love the sinner but hate the sin” and non-Christians are quick to point out that you cannot love someone while judging their behavior or calling them “sinners”. I would say that to ignore sin, self-destructive or dangerous behavior is not love at all. It is one thing to accept and love anyone, but another to ignore the needle stuck in their arm.
While to world seeks to isolate whatever it defines as “extreme” and “radical”, it is important to remember that the most extreme and radical person of all was Jesus; Who while loving this world unconditionally, proved it by dying on a Cross to pay the price for our violations of God’s Laws. (Romans 5:6-11) “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) The world has seen lots of extremism, but far too little of this kind. The extreme, radical manifestation of God’s love to us, in us and through us.