This word is like so many English words. It can have many different meanings.
The word extreme can be viewed horizontally and vertically.
The horizontal version of the word extreme is “furthest from the center of a given point, or outermost”—two opposing ends or two polar opposites.
We can use this as a geographical direction, like “the extreme southeast of Iowa.” Or, we can use this as opposing views on the world, like North Pole versus South Pole, Democrats versus Republications, and so on.
Now let me ask you, When was the last time you liked something extreme?
When’s the last time you liked an extreme Democrat or Republican?
Or when was the last time you liked a Jewish extremist? Mormon extremist? Muslim extremist? Or a Christian extremist—someone pushing you to believe in Jesus or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life?
But we all know a guy who is extreme—not just horizontally, but also vertically. His extreme—the vertical kind—was to be at the zenith, at the max, at the highest point.
But he wasn’t an extremist for abortion, or gay rights, or Democrats, Republicans, athletes, Pharisees, Pharaohs, race, gender equality, or even religion.
Jesus was an extremist for love.
He was so extreme with his love that he was born in a barn, that he sinned on the Sabbath to help people and that he turned the world upside-down and inside out.
So for me personally, he turned my world upside-down when he yelled, in Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Jesus turned my world inside out when he died on the cross and came back to life— for my sins.
Everyone can die, but only one man can raise from the dead. All of his teachings, actions, and his love for others would have been wasted without the Resurrection.
There’s no way I can sin anymore with Him standing by me—alive. That is love.
I volunteered in a food pantry in Denver a few years ago at Denver Urban Ministries.
A man sat next to me while I entered his information into the computer system so he could receive his food for the next couple of months.
Before he got up to leave, he told his story. He had everything— a great job, big house, a wife and two kids.
One day his life was turned inside out. He had a stroke.
There went everything.
He lost the use of the left side of his body, his house, his job, his wife and his kids, since they didn’t want to hassle with his recovery.
But he said he gained so much more out of that. He told me that when he had the big house and fancy job, he felt empty inside.
Once he lost it all, he came to Jesus and found everything he needed.
He felt full of joy and happiness he never felt before the stroke. This kind of reminds me of how the first Christians felt.
I like to read the stories in the New Testament after the Gospels because these people were the first to truly live like Jesus did, but as humans, instead of the Son of Man.
How did they do Jesus’ extreme teachings?
Peter and Paul were thrown into prison. Stephen was stoned to death. And countless others were persecuted for their belief in Jesus.
But they did it in the name of love, even as the Romans were persecuting them.
The crazy thing is, Jesus was hated for being extreme with his love.
This guy in Denver was turned away by society not just because he didn’t have a home or money to buy food, but he had the love of Jesus in his heart. The first Christians were extremely hated for their actions, but they had love in their soul.
Therefore, the only way to be extreme with our love is to love extremely.
Let’s see how extreme we can be. Jesus made it possible for us, for the random guy in Denver, for the first Christians, and for the rest of the world, to be extreme with our love for each other no matter our extreme (or moderate) views.
Andrew Krehbiel grew up in Donnellson, Iowa, at the Zion Mennonite Church. This is adapted from a sermon he gave at Pleasant View (Iowa) Mennonite Church.
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