Radical Love

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

H E L E N    K E L L E R

We’ve all seen the headlines and feel the weight of the refugee crisis that has taken the world by storm. My inbox occasionally receives messages with inquiries about how people can help, my thoughts about what the world should be doing, or simply fears that need a safe place to be shared.

I’ve read opinions from all sides, listened to stories on the news, and have watched videos that have appeared on social media.

I have friends who are Syrian refugees.

I have even seen the Syrian border with my own eyes, and can visualize the stretch of land refugees are crossing over to flee from terror.

And despite all the information and personal experience, I don’t have answers.

But what I do have are the words of Christ Himself….

 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

– Matthew 22:34-39

Simplified, we are to love God and love others. These words spoken by Christ are to be the very lens we look through as we navigate this life. They are not a suggestion for followers of Jesus to apply to their lives if they so desire – they are absolutely at the very heart of claiming to be one of His own. You cannot claim to be a follower without radical love being at the forefront of your life.

Radical love received begets radical love given.

It’s simple. Perhaps not easy, but simple.

I’ve notice people find it easy to love God and love others when loving others doesn’t disrupt their lives or require them to be uncomfortable. Some people say they love God and love others but yet wouldn’t dare invite an unsaved person to eat at their dining room table, let alone someone with darker skin, a beard, and whose wife has her head covered. There are many ways to justify not showing radical love – I don’t know that person; I don’t like talking to strangers; they look different; I’m an introvert; I’m not good at making conversation…

But here’s the thing. How can you love a neighbor you’ve never met?

I get it. The childhood shyness I never fully grew out of also makes talking to strangers uncomfortable. But when I think about my uncomfortable feelings in relation to the eternal destiny my lost frineds are headed towards, radical love always wins. Always pushes me out of my comfort zone. Always presents an opportunity to choose obedience and to walk in His strength.

You see, Jesus didn’t send money to far off humanitarian causes. Jesus didn’t establish ministries to help people that he would never have to deal with personally. Jesus didn’t try to protect his comfort.

Jesus went to the lost. He ate meals wtih enemies. He loved deeply.

I want to live like Jesus did.

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I’ve heard people say they are ok letting refugees into their country but only with extensive background checks. My first thought when I started hearing these statements was”I’m glad Jesus didn’t do a background check on me before rescuing me.” And then it dawned on me – He did. He gave his very life in the ultimate expression of love while I was still a sinner. Still an enemy. Full of darkness. Still living against the very cause of Christ…

 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. -Romans 5:6-11

While we were God’s enemies – yes, enemies – Jesus died in our place.

He set aside His feelings and comfort, and because of the joy awaiting Him, endured the cross. Jesus lived joyful sorrow. He is radical love in flesh and blood – blood that spilled on our behalf.

How easy is it to look at ourselves – good, hard-working, moral people in our own eyes – and think we are nothing like Isis. But here’s the thing: whether you are a polite American who tries your best to be a good citizen, or whether you are a passionate member of the Taliban kidknapping and raping and murdering others, you are an enemy to the cross without the Life-giving, sin-removing blood of Christ.

And how many today see the words enemy and refugee as synonymous? Borders are closing, voices are protesting, and eyes are turning away in spiritual blindness to the fact that no one is entitled to anything on this earth.

Again, I get it. I really do. And I do not have the answers. Honestly, I feel inadequate at loving a traumatized refugee. But I myself, a refugee in the Refuge, trust the One who does have answers and who is more than adequate to guide my family in doing our part of loving our neighbors as ourselves. He has given us all we need for life and godliness. Our part may seem small, but if even one person sees our love flowing from Love Himself, then we have made a difference.

I’d be lying if I didn’t feel fear when my husband kisses me goodbye and walks out our front door with a nearby refugee camp as his final desination. I’d be lying if I said I felt confident in what I serve them for dinner or if the coffee I fill their cups with is how they prefer it. I’d be lying if headlines of refugees raping women in Europe didn’t cause me to rethink our lifestyle when I think about my daughters entering into the refugee camp with their daddy.

But here’s what I believe: feeling fear isn’t wrong.

It’s what you do with that fear that matters.

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Each time my husband leaves to go spend time at the all-men refugee camp nearby, I have to conciously open my hands to the Giver of all things and release my husband – a gift that has never really been mine – into the Lord’s sovereign will. I know my husband is known as a follower of Jesus among the refugees. He spends hours there drinking tea and coffee, hanging out, and most importantly sharing stories from the  Bible. I know he is wise and discerning and listens to the Spirit, but I also know when he walks into the camp, he is a sheep being sent among wolves. Afterall, it was one of the refugees that he is particularly close with who has pointed out fellow refugees in the camp, deeming them “very bad guys” who my husband should stay away from.

And speaking of sheep and wolves, Jesus did not protect his sheep from being among wolves, in fact, he sent them there…

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

-Matthew 10:16

As I have walked through the hallway in the storage-container-turned-refugee housing, and seen the young men who survived the traumatic journey of being smuggled to Europe, I start wondering what all these young men have seen. What have they done? Have they killed people? What have the lived through? Could they only be pretending to be innocent refugees? What do they think of the Bible stories my husband shares there?

Again, fear wells up inside. 

And again, I am given the opportunity to lift my head in godly confidence that greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world. 

…and thus, through my human fears being subdued under the solid, divine promises of God, my heart accepts his assigned refinement as a gift, and my faith is increased.

Because really, the momentary pain you might feel on the road of following Jesus is nothing compared the eternal weight of glory being produced for you.

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One evening in particular I remember sitting alone at home while the children slept, anxiously awaiting his arrival back home. I wondered if terrorists masquerading as refugees were rubbing elbows with the man I love more than anyone on this earth. Yes I have scripture head knowledge, but sometimes my heart needs a little time to catch up. I’m not naive enough to think the possiblility of bad guys, with fake passports in hand, cannot sneak into this country among the millions of refugees fleeing for their lives. And if I ponder that possibility long enough, my courage wanes and I start to resent the ministry the Lord has seemingly dropped into my husband’s lap. So this one night in particular, I was struggling with not wanting my husband to go. And then it hit me – the guys who have bad intentions and who are radical in Islam are going to hell. They need what my husband has. These are the exact men my husband should be around.

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I felt a twinge of pain.

People who love with great love lay down their lives. People who love like this also place that which they hold most dear at the feet of Christ.  So as my husband lays down his professional wants or his material desires to live overseas, spending hours drinking tea and talking with our “neighbors” – oftentimes with very little visible return – I am challenged to lay him down too…along with all my dreams of growing old together.

There is a hopeless audience that needs to continue hearing his Hope-filled stories. There is a hopeless audience that needs to know his Jesus more than I need the promise of his lifelong companionship. This laying down of all my dreams is truly the path to freedom, for when you live in a way where you realize that which you cherish most could be taken from you, you learn to appreciate deeply the day at hand. You live fully alive.

So perhaps he is dining with the enemy while at the camp, but that enemy will never become a Brother if we let fear cancel out the radical love the Savior is ready to show through us.

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“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Dear friends, if I can extend love to those who are very different than me, then so can you. I’ve learned that perhaps my house isn’t spotless when my husband surprises me by bringing home guests, yet I can still show the warmth of a welcoming heart which will be remembered long after the sticky fingerprints on my windows are forgotten. I’ve learned that maybe the meal I offered wasn’t anything like they would cook for themselves, but it’s a warm meal given from a willing heart that God can use to bless those starving for more than just food. And when these refugee neighbors talk badly about us and word gets back to us,  just like Jesus, who knew rejection intimately, we are given the faith-growing opportunity to persevere in radical love. Because the pain I feel from being taken for granted is nothing compared to the eternal torment awaiting those who mistreat us.

And so, brothers and sisters, let’s ask the Lord to show us where He is working today and join him on the front lines. Let’s open our hands and offer all that we have, all that we are, and all that we love to be used for His glory. Freedom is on the other side of surrender.

He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

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