Nearly every day news outlets carry stories of religious extremism. Just the other day it was reported that a publisher and several bloggers were stabbed because of their atheism by religious extremists in Bangladesh. The destruction of human life in the name of religion is horrifying and abhorrent.
I’ve been wondering how to respond to religious extremism in the world, and I’ve decided that perhaps more of us should become religious extremists. What might it look like to be more extreme in our journey of following Jesus?
It could look like more extreme love, following Jesus across the boundaries and borders of race, religion, economics, gender, sexual orientation, nationality and political affiliation to build bridges of relationship right in our own communities, schools and workplaces.
It could look like more extreme forgiveness, following Jesus beyond old wounds and onto the challenging road of reconciliation.
It could look like more extreme service, following Jesus outside our agendas and into the messy lives of needy people.
It could look like extremely wise choices to protect our planet, following Jesus into deeper care for this magnificent creation.
It could look like more extreme generosity, following Jesus into a deeper trust in God’s provision that opens us to experience the truth, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
It could look like more extreme hope, following Jesus beyond resignation to the way things are and into the messy work of justice for all people, trusting the Spirit’s guidance and empowerment to change the world, revealing the Kingdom.
Rather than destroying life, that kind of religious extremism could engender more life for others and for us. It could bear a brighter witness to Jesus in whom we have found enough love, forgiveness, generosity and hope for ourselves and others.
What could religious extremism look like in your life? What might you have to have stop “limping after” in order to follow Jesus more fully?
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN