Living Lives of Radical Love

In many ways, the call to follow Jesus is simply the all to imitate Him.  Imitation, though, is not merely an external act of doing what someone else does.  Ideally, imitation is about getting their heart.  It is about understanding the one we are imitating so well that we know how they would respond in any given situation.  We become like the one we imitate from the inside out.

We are called to imitate Jesus, to become like Jesus from the inside out.  So what does His life look like?

Love.

Jesus said, "But I say to all who hear, Love your enemies..." (Luke 6:27).  In an honor-based culture of violence and retribution, Jesus called His followers to live in a different way.  Turn the other cheek, don't withhold your tunic, give to everyone who begs.  He called His followers to live in a different way.

It is important to understand, though, what Jesus isn't saying.  To begin with, His definition of love is different than the world's definition.  Where the world defines love in self-centric ways, usually surrounding the experience of physical and emotional well-being, Jesus defines love in a selfless way: "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).  True love is not focused on what we get, but on what we can give.

It is also important, though, to understand that when Jesus says to turn the other cheek or not withhold the tunic, He is not calling His disciples to be spineless doormats.  As NT Wright suggests, to turn the other cheek and to give the tunic was to respond to violence in a way that exposes it as wrong, yet does not resort to violence.  Sometimes, just like Jesus, we do absorb the hatred and injustice of the world in silence.  Sometimes, though, just like Jesus, we speak out against wrong.  The response requires discernment.  But it will always be marked by the creativity and healing power of love.

We live, it seems to me, in a culture where we are exposed not only to physical injustice, but also verbal violence and vengeance.  We live in a culture that loves to cut "enemies" down with words - written and spoken.  Love, though, learns how to speak truth in a way that heals.  And it does so by learning to listen.  

Not listen to argue.  

Not listen to call names and cut down.  

But listen to understand.  

Love is radically powerful in its ability to turn the other cheek, to undo the harmful impulses of our dark world.  And the wonderful thing is, love typically does so through the small, seemingly boring acts of everyday life.  Acts like choosing to listen.  

In a world that is so quick to speak and light damaging fires, may we be those who first listen and bring peace.

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