We have all experienced dealing with someone who is radically committed to something or someone. There are those with whom there is no possibility of a discussion about politics because they are ‘’all in” in their dedication to a singular point of view. There is only one way to think and anyone who does not share their view is flat wrong, end of story. There are sports fanatics whose dedication to a team extends all year long. They show something like worship for the star players of their favored club! The list of causes to which people commit themselves and their resources is a long one.
I admire those who are radically committed to Jesus! No, not that kooky, spookily weird, religious person who spouts Bible verses constantly, or who feels the need to interject something about “Jesus” into every conversation. The radical Christians who find my admiration are those whose love for the Lord goes deep, who live selflessly and lovingly, who are steady in faith – in all seasons.
Hyper-religiosity is not to be confused with radical devotion. The former flows out of Self, is worked up and often sustained by emotionalism. The latter is evidence of an intimate conversation with the Spirit, rooted in an inner transformation produced by daily obedience to Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come, follow Me!’
Mary of Bethany was a radical lover of Jesus. In Luke 10, we meet her learning from Jesus, quietly listening to Him, “sitting at His feet.” Her sister, Martha, in that famous scene, explodes in frustration, wondering why Jesus does not tell Mary to get up and help prepare the meal. Jesus gently reminds her that Mary has “chosen better!” What a correction. Martha loved Jesus, too. But, she confused her own needs to do, to be, to work with true devotion. The result was anger. It can happen to us, Christian. When our ‘devotion’ gets mixed up with Self, we will get frustrated when people do not march to our cadence. We will begin to blame, accuse, and wonder why everyone is not as committed as we are. That kind of ‘devotion’ is too often the norm and drives people from knowing Christ because it is not really about Jesus; it is about us; our agenda, our ego.
We meet Mary in John 12, once again in a place of radical devotion. After restored her brother, Lazarus, to life, Jesus and the disciples came to the house for dinner. The familiar roles play out again. Martha is serving and then Mary comes in the picture. This time the quiet woman breaks all convention, her commitment causing her to break society’s rules. She goes into the room where the men are eating, goes to Jesus’ place. John, who witnessed it, says “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:3, NIV) There was no mistaking her love for Jesus! She did not preach, scold, or nag. She just loved and that last phrase sticks with me today … “the house was filled with the fragrance.”
Paul says that when we truly love Jesus, our way of life will be a fragrance in the world. “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16, NIV) Are you so close to Jesus that you ‘smell’ like Him? Do the people that you live with become consciously aware, not of you, but of Him when you are around? It is question worth pondering!
Mary’s radical devotion was costly. The box of fragrant oil she opened that night was worth the annual wages of a laborer! Imagine that. Did she ask for recognition for her extravagance? No, she just gave it. If we are radical disciples, we will just give our love to Him. We won’t be looking around for an award. We will not care if we serve one or a million.
Her gift was criticized. If you and I are radically committed to Christ Jesus, if we give our best, not everyone will see it in a positive light. There will be critics. Interestingly, it was one of Jesus’ own disciples who raised the objection. “What a waste! She could have sold it and gave the money to the poor.” Judas missed the point. She was not doing something religious, calculating maximum benefit for the most people – She was loving the One who had given her brother life, the Savior who opened the Way to Eternal Life for her, too.
Hear Jesus’ invitation to be radically devoted. Let the Spirit work in you and learn to love Him – with obedience, in a costly way, that ignores the critics. When we live in this way, He is lifted up and promises that others will be drawn to His amazing love and life.
Here is a word from the Word –
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)
O God of such truth as sweeps away all lies,
of such grace as shrivels all excuses,
come now to find us
for we have lost ourselves
in a shuffle of disguises
and in the rattle of empty words.
Let your Spirit move mercifully
To recreate us from the chaos of our lives.
We have been careless of our days,
our loves, our gifts, our chances…
Our prayer is to change, O God,
not out of despair of self but for love of You,
and the selves we long to become
before we simply waste away.
Let Your mercy move in and through us now… Amen.
– Copied, Ted Loder