We hear a lot these days about extremist groups—Islamic extremists, right-wing extremists, environmental extremists—over 250 separate groups, worldwide, have been accounted for. Although characterized by passion for their various causes, their radicalism is most often defined by hatred. In fact, most searches equate extremists with hate groups.
But there’s another definition of extremist I want to consider. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. penned his now famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Countering those opposed to the Civil Rights movement for fear of the violence it might spawn, King implored them (many of whom were church leaders) to action with these haunting words: “The question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love?” He pointed to Calvary as a demonstration of the latter.
There remains no greater distinguishing mark for the Christian than love. And to love like Christ loves—as we are called to do—at times requires radicalism. Henri Nouwen writes, “Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain.” Yet he concludes that the “risk of loving is always worth taking.”
So may I encourage you today to take the risk? Will you choose to be one of those extremists? Will you allow God to reveal himself in you in a way that shows the world that, indeed, “the greatest of these is love?”