Monday, February 14, 2011

Extravagant Love Provokes An Extravagant Response

Some of my students would laugh at me for saying this but I am a reserved person most of the time; I don't like to draw attention to myself. At school it is a bit different but around adults I would rather not stand out. So being reserved in life, reserved in showing emotions, reserved in conversation, reserved in offering my opinion I am also reserved when it comes to worship. I love Jesus with all my life, worshipping with lifted hands and lifted voice but not with my all. There was a time when I wanted to pour my entire being into worship, my body, spirit and mind so I danced with all my energy while singing out love songs to Jesus. It felt great. It felt like whole-hearted worship. Some would have called it a bit extravagant.

There is a word for you, extravagant. I would say that is the perfect word to describe the Father's love for us. He is extravagant in the love and blessings he pours into our lives every single day. He gave his very best on the cross so that what began in extravagance could continue in extravagance. What better word to describe his grace, a thing that allows all our sins to be wiped away and for Jesus to declare us innocent before the Father? What better word to describe the peace that covers us, that guards our heart and mind as we trust in his unfailing love? What better word to describe the joy that floods our soul in the midst of all the storms and circumstances of our life? Anyone who has experienced and lived in the love of Jesus Christ will agree to the extravagance of its nature.

The only proper manner to respond to extravagant love is with extravagant love. You realize this when you realize just how much has been forgiven. When you realize what a wretched creature you are before our Holy God and then realize he holds none of it against us but instead paid the price for the love relationship he wants with us, you realize the richness of the extravagance. You want the whole world to know, to shout it from the roof top, to dance and sing, to jump up and down and to just shout. Or, if you had the chance, perhaps you would take the most expensive oils and perfumes you possessed and bathe Jesus in them:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. (Matthew 26:6-7)

Why is it that when someone does something extravagant in an act of love there are always people there to criticize and to refer to it as a waste? How can an extravagant act of love be a waste? Was the perfume not hers to do with as she saw fit? I'll tell you why people criticize, it's because extravagant love scares them. To see someone who let's go of control, who abandons themselves to that act of love, who surrenders  acceptability in response to love frightens people who do not understand. It is thought that the criticism may have come from Judas, the disciples' financial manager:

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:8-9)

It is funny how the critics always come up with such righteous reasons for their criticism. This woman could think of no better way to respond to Jesus' love then to sacrifice her most expensive possession. This was her act of worship. Extravagance as a response to extravagance. There is no way that Jesus is about to allow them to diminish this wonderful act of love:

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me." (Matthew 26:10)

What is our reaction to someone at church who is overwhelmed by this love and becomes extravagant in their response? What if that person lifts their hands and starts shouting the name of Jesus? What if he starts dancing around or jumping up and down in great joy? What if he he becomes extravagant in his emotions and begins to cry great tears of joy, singing louder than everyone else? Would you criticize him out of fear or would you join him with understanding? Be careful of your response because Jesus is accepting that extravagance while warning everyone, "Why are you bothering this man? He is doing a beautiful thing to me."

I am reserved, not because of some dignity I possess but because I have a fear of letting people know who I am. It stems from childhood, from being picked on at school, a time when I allowed others to force who I was into hiding. But I have known moments of extravagance, when my spirit refused to remain reserved in the light of the Father's extravagant love. I understand what this woman felt as she poured out that oil-perfume upon Jesus. I understand the desire to respond in kind to his great out pouring of love. Our response is not without emotion as we are grounded in the Word. It is an authentic and preferred response to the great riches of our Father. More of us need to learn such extravagance and if we did maybe the world would begin to understand the value we place on this relationship. Our love has to go deeper than a few songs on Sunday. There can be no greater love in our life and such love must come from a deeper place of gratefulness as a response to God's great love: "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) May Jesus be able to say of us today, "They are doing a beautiful thing to me."

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