Love: noun 1. an intense feeling of deep affection.
Matthew 6:24 & 25 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
I was recently asked, "To what extent should I go to show love to my extremely difficult family member?" My answer was, "To the greatest extent you possibly can. Your love should be radical. That's what we are called to as Christians." Easier said than done, right? Loving others can be very messy, painful and nearly impossible at times, but it can also be rewarding, wonderful and uplifting. It's easy to buy into love when it's the latter of those sentiments, but there are two sides to every coin. I have felt the dark side of love in relationships, marriage, and parenting. Haven't we all? There is always light in the darkness and hope in the face of hopelessness with God, though. He works all things for our good when we are faithful and seek Him with our whole heart. I have witnessed God transform the most hopeless, dead and dysfunctional situations into beacons of hope, works of beauty and shining examples of His grace and love.
In Matthew 25: 31-46 Jesus shares a parable with us, and we are invited to look inward to apply it. This parable speaks to what we are called to do as followers of Christ so that we might receive our eternal reward. How many of us can say that we have fed the hungry, given the thirsty a drink, invited a stranger in, clothed one in need, visited the sick or imprisoned? When we do these things, Jesus says that we do them unto Him. Have you ever noticed that it's often much easier to love a stranger than it is to love your own family? Why is that? The very nature of the relationship makes it easier because we don't know all of their "stuff," their baggage and flaws. They haven't wounded us, rejected us or neglected us. It's a clean slate.
Did you know that we are called to love others (including our family) even when they feel like our enemies? Matthew 5:43 -46 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" Wow. That's a pretty high standard, isn't it? But, no one ever said that being a Christian was easy. However, it has been said that "great things are worth fighting for."
I believe that we are called to radical love in every arena of our lives and that we must fight for it. I believe that our marriages and families are where radical love can be demonstrated most because that is where we are tested the most. Radical love is a love that will choose to die to self no matter what. It's a love that puts others first. It doesn't mean that we get to pick and choose when we will die to self. It's not, "I will die to myself as soon as my husband dies to himself!" It's not waiting for my needs to be met before I choose to meet the needs of another. It's not choosing to pray for another as soon as they start praying for me. It's not serving another under the condition that I'm shown appreciation. It's not (fill in the blank). We all have something/s, right? Where do you feel like God is asking you to be more radical in your love? In what relationship/s do you hear Him asking you to die to self?
We have a promise in scripture that we can take hold of as we attempt to meet the challenges set before us: Philippians 4:19 "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." We must first look to Christ for our needs to be met and for our hearts to be filled with His love. Only then are we able to fulfill what Jesus calls us to; to give without conditions, expectation, demands, limits… to love radically.
Radical Love is a selfless adventure in trust. Radical love is delayed gratification. Radical love is giving with no expectation of getting. Radical love is knowing what really matters in this life. Radical love is everything. May we be radical.