‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).’
This is extreme love. God is love (1 John 4:8).
‘We love Him because He first loved us (v 19).’
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘extremist’ as: n. chiefly derogatory a person who holds extreme political or religious views. My online dictionary defines it as: a supporter or advocate of extreme doctrines or practices.
Was Jesus an extremist? Well, according the above definitions He surely was. He said there is only one way to the true and living God, i.e., His Father; there is no other way of approaching Him or of being in His presence. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).’
Now, if that’s not extreme, then I don’t know what is! But Christians believe it is true. My faith hangs on this truth.
It’s extreme and controversial, because those of other faiths and religions deny His claim. People hate Him because He says He is the Son of God (10:35-37), and the only way to His Father is to believe in Him.
Speaking to His disciples on the night of His betrayal He said them, “He who hates Me hates My Father also (John 15:23).’ Prior to that at a private meeting with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Olives, He warned and encouraged them saying: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Mark 13:13).”
When we look back over history we discover that it is the extremists who have made the most impact on society – for better or for worse. Those who have changed it for the better, have, on the whole, been non-violent extremists, people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Both of them were pacifists who lobbied for representative enfranchisement and better living conditions for the poor and disadvantaged. The establishment was not pleased with them. Both were imprisoned and both were assassinated.
At the other end of the scale there are violent extremists who are ideologically motivated. Their actions of violence are deemed to be terrorism. One such person was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was the leader of ISIL. Ostensibly he was motivated by his interpretations of the Quran, which to me makes no sense; for as far as I understand it, the Quran teaches tolerance and respect, not murder and repression, as was carried out by members of ISIL. To avoid arrest during a raid by the US 75th Ranger Regiment, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi committed suicide.
One of the most fanatical violent extremists of modern history was Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for heinous crimes against humanity, which brought suffering and death for millions of people during the Second World War. He wanted to create a super *master race in which eugenics would play a major role in the promotion of Aryan progeny. With no prospect of escape from allied forces, while trapped in his Berlin bunker, on 30th April, 1945, he committed suicide. Just eight days later, the Axis powers agreed to an unconditional surrender, bringing the war in Europe to an end.
Should Christians be Extremists?
Extremism, therefore, can bring good and bad.
As Jesus was undoubtedly an extremist, should His followers also be extremists?
The answer must depend upon the nature of Christ’s extremism and His call for action.
So what was His extremism about? The answer is LOVE. He died and gave His life because of His love for the world (John 3:16). He loved the people He had created for the purpose of loving Him and one another (1:3; 13:34).
He was a pacifist, and He taught His followers to be like Him (13:15). In the extremity of His pacifism He gave His life to bring peace to the world. He said, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (14:27).’
Don’t be confused because He also said. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34).’
This must be understood within its context; for He went on to explain (vv. 35-39) that people who love and believe in Him should be prepared to suffer as a result. Even some of their own family members would be against them. Some would love Him and others would not; hence there would be conflict between siblings and their parents, on account of Him.
Followers who put into practice their extreme love of Jesus, must be prepared to pay the price of bearing their own cross (v 38), even to the extent they may be required to lay down their lives. Whatever happens, they must lay down their self- life, and take up their new life of selflessness. This can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5) and by God-given faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus laid down His life for others, for them to know and experience His love and the love of His Father. He told those who love Him to follow Him, but there would be a price to pay; for ‘He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).’
Christians must be followers of their Master (Ephesians 6:9), and be extremists of love who love Him because He first loved them (1 John 4:19).
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”