The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem.
But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who arezealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We are to bring glory to God by doing good for others. Allah may be glorified in maimed bodies and blood-soaked city streets, but God is glorified in acts of love and deeds of kindness. He is glorified in deeds done not to earn favor with God, but deeds done as an expression of gratitude because we have already received the favor of God. God is glorified as we serve others in his name. God is honored in the costly sacrifice of love.
Jesus himself spoke of the primacy of good works: “Let your light shine before others,” he said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His friend Peter said it as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [those who do not adhere to Christian teaching] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Apostle Paul would also echo the theme: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The theme pervades and dominates the New Testament. Does it pervade and dominate your life?
We make God’s love and presence known in these good works, these deeds done for the glory of God and the good of other people. These deeds communicate something of the heart of God and his love for mankind. And so he calls us to take every possible opportunity to love others with the love of God. We are to be thoughtful and creative, to apply ingenuity in our attempts to shock others with our deeds of love and kindness. We are to give generously of our time, talents, money, and whatever else God has given us. We are to forget about ourselves in service to him, to be willing to face pain, harm, or even death as we do these deeds.
So Christian, with zealotry on every heart and in every mind today, perhaps this is a time to ask about your own level of extremism. Are you eager to do good for others? Is this what motivates you? Is this the natural expression of your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said that you are a good works zealot? God calls you to nothing less.