Author | Steve
“Reason demands moderation in love as in all things, but faith destroys moderation here. Faith tolerates a moderate love of one’s fellow man no more than it tolerates a moderate love between God and man.” ~ John McKenzie in ‘Source: What the Bible Says About the Problems of Contemporary Life’
I’m a good German boy: hard-working and even-keel. Moderation in all things (except beer and sporting events because you have to have something to confess and repent of, right?). But this quote stopped me cold a couple weeks back. “Reason demands moderation in love as in all things…”
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of reason and moderation. It has produced for me the kind of life that a flawed, broken, temporal man like myself can produce – boring and dead, and not very helpful to my neighbor.
When I read about Jesus’ interactions with people in the gospel accounts, He’s anything but reasonable. His love is not moderate, but extravagant. Think of His encounter with the woman caught in adultery, or the Samaritan woman at the well, or the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and her hair in a Pharisee’s house. To be honest, I have lived a safe life most of my days. I’ve tried so very hard to both believe in Jesus but not need Him too much. Faith, for me, was mostly about what would happen to me after I die. As far as the day-to-day was to go, that was mostly in my hands. So, I played it safe. Moderate love based on reasonable choices.
Well, to hell with that! And I mean it!
So much of my experience of Jesus in my life has been informed by my experience of “church.” That’s a loaded word. It can mean so many different things to so many different people. At its best, it is the people God gathers together around His gifts of life given through His Son, Jesus, then boldly sends to the world by the power of His Spirit. But to be honest, a lot of my experience has been very, well…moderate. A reasonable faith that fits on Sunday mornings and sometimes spills onto Wednesday nights and dinner table prayers. A reasonable love that does mission trips that we plan to fit into our busy schedule.
In my tribe (I’m of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod flavor), I’ve seen this reasonable, moderate faith grow into two extremes, both of which place Jesus in the middle of a virtually impossible maze to navigate. One is afraid you won’t like Jesus so it hides Him in the middle of all kinds of hip, culturally relevant stuff and never really gets around to inviting you into a relationship of surrender and trust to the Savior of the world. The other hides Him in the middle of all kinds of rules and regulations (often times cloaked in religious terms like ‘confession’ and ‘doctrines’) because, well…honestly, its just easier to get people to assent to rules than to live in relationship with God. (I know this is a little simplified…but tell me you haven’t seen or experienced this.) But the Jesus of the Gospels isn’t in the middle of a maze, He’s on the edge of society, with the outcasts and downcast, freely giving the love and acceptance of the Father.
Here’s my point. I’m done with this. I’m done with a reasonable, moderate love. I don’t know what that really means yet. But I trust Jesus to open the floodgates of heaven with my offering: I give Him my fears and my deep desire to play it safe.
Brennan Manning writes in The Ragamuffin Gospel, “Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually.” God’s love for you and me in Jesus is audacious! It is anything but moderate and safe! He is calling us to a mind-blowing, courageous life of risky love. Don’t settle for what you can safely produce. Jesus has so much more for you, and through you, to others. He doesn’t just have resurrection for you after you die (though He does guarantee that). He has miracles of extravagant love for you right now by the power of His Spirit – everyday miracles of stopping to listen, taking time to care, of sharing your heart and story which is filled with His heart and story for the entire world.
To hell with moderation! It’s time to risk boldly in a way that requires Jesus’ power!
P.S. ~ I know I sound totally confident but I’m shaking in my boots about this. At the same time I’m filled with anticipation and excitement for what God will do each day. Our days are now filled with more laughter and with more tears. Moderation doesn’t have much room for those, but extravagance does. Journey on!