While passing through social media, I stumbled upon a quote by renowned author and speaker, Bob Goff. “Loving people extravagantly means constantly being misunderstood. Go risk it.” I immediately stopped scrolling. As I thought about these simple sentences I realized it could be many of our mantras in ministry. We have loved extravagantly and we have been misunderstood. When we create environments where the most marginalized of society are welcomed to call our churches home, not everyone will share in our passion to extravagantly love. However, being misunderstood has always been worth the risk. Why?
We “risk it” because lost people matter most. When we create environments and ministries focused on the person who doesn’t know Jesus, we always do the right thing. Not everyone will understand, but the lost person who finds Jesus and a life of purpose, that person matters most. In Luke 15 a group of people, including the religious Pharisees, gathered around Jesus to hear him teach. He launches into the parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. When he had their attention, Jesus focused on the lost and the celebration that ensued when the lost were found. Lost people matter most.
But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. – Luke 15:32 (NIV)
We “risk it” because it’s not about me. There are songs our band sings that I would never purchase on iTunes but those songs are incorporated into a strategy to reach someone far from Jesus. I don’t have to understand everything we do, but I must celebrate everything we do. Cheering for something effective, even when I don’t get it, is a sign of spiritual maturity. No one wants to follow a leader who is spiritually arrogant. When we do anything it takes to show radical love, we will face criticism. However, it doesn’t matter because God is writing our story and it’s not about me.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 3:31 (NIV)
We “risk it” because we are better together. There are times when I need to be alone. During those times I’m able to recharge, listen to my inner-self and connect with God in ways that aren’t possible in corporate worship. However, when I face tragedy, become overwhelmed by my own lack of initiative and just overall begin to blow up my life, I can’t walk that path alone and neither can you. Extravagant love risks getting involved in the “messy” of another person’s life because we are better together.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV)
Leadership is hard and let’s face it, being misunderstood is part of the role. However, when we purpose to love with the extravagant acceptance of Jesus, being misunderstood pales in comparison. Criticism doesn’t even touch the surface of seeing a single mom, who has been stripping for the last three years to feed her children, walk away from her destructive life because she now understands she is worthy of more. She was loved extravagantly and now understands she is a beautiful creation of God. She then moves forward to pursue her dream to become a teacher because she was loved extravagantly. That mom was absolutely worth the risk.
Radical love is difficult, but my challenge to each of us who’ve committed to loving extravagantly – just do it. Commit to see the lost, first. Look for ways to whole-heartedly serve others – refusing to allow ministry to become solely about your own success. Be the answer to someone’s prayer. What happens if we don’t risk it? I simply do not want to find out!