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Lovers in a Dangerous Time

Jesus implies that His disciples are to live "dangerously" and love "extravagantly"—outside the box, as it were. An uncommon love-life is our calling.

It came like a shot across the bow of the paddle boat that is my life. It advanced so quickly, so stealthily, that my radar didn't even pick up the incoming foray. I had my newly adopted daughter in my arms while descending our deck steps on the way to a family outing with friends whom we loved deeply. Life was good; spring was in the air, and then, BAM!

… this dangerously other-worldly characteristic is increasingly absent … and no one is noticing.

In one of those epic-making moments marked by nothing particularly spectacular except the piercing voice of my Redeemer I heard this, "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?" (Matthew 5:46). Jesus said even tax collectors love their own; there is camaraderie in numbers apparently. Jesus implies that His disciples are to love dangerously—to love outside the box as it were—and it suddenly occurred to me that my loving is too common, too safe, too selfish, and shallow; really, really shallow.

Who do you love? Who are you found talking to at worship gatherings, or the soccer game, or in the neighbourhood? Who are given the seats of honour in your life? Who do you pray for, ache for, and wish well?

It's so comfortable, isn't it? So nice to be around nice people who say nice things and never rock your nice little existence. We have cheapened and disobeyed the divine love that goes to incarnational lengths to love the unloveable, the unwelcoming, the rebellious. God's love extends from prodigals in their wild excess to Pharisees in their self-righteous snobbery—Jesus had time for Zacchaeus and Nicodemus. Sadly, my love is too oft for those who love me.

My deep concern is that this dangerously other-worldly characteristic is increasingly absent from the disciples of Jesus and no one is noticing. We, the beloved, have become activists but have we ceased being lovers? We, in the Anabaptist tradition, call ourselves a Peace Church, but are we a Loving Church? Do we love only those who love us, who see it our way, who play our tune, who engage the world as we engage it? Are we engaged in God's great love affair for those who are yet His enemies? I need more time with people I don't like, for I am called to the toil of loving even those who don't love me. Father Zossima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov pines, "love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams." Are we still dreaming in these dangerous times?

I'm slowly waking up and finding reward in the Christ-life cited by Mother Teresa"

"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies,
Succeed anyway.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight,
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them,
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth,
Give the world the best you've got anyway."

This uncommon love-life is the Church's vocation. Can we be lovers in a dangerous time?

Phil Wagler is lead pastor of Zurich Mennonite Church in Ontario. He can be reached at

Originally published in Canadian Mennonite, June 2006.




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