I believe we are called to live lives, loving others extravagantly - because our Savior did. From the moment Jesus laid down His holy crown, befitting the King of Kings in His heavenly home, and chose to come to earth to be born into the human race…as one of us... from that moment, Jesus' life on earth depicts a life of extravagant love for all of God's children.
While attending a wedding, Jesus' mother Mary noticed a potentially not only embarrassing but also family-honor threatening situation. (John 2:1-12) The bridegroom's family was out of wine. So Mary took this problem to Jesus, just as we should take each and every problem we have. After a brief discussion about "timing," Jesus instructed the servants to fill six gigantic stone water jars with water. Each of these jars held 20-30 gallons. Do the math. 6 x 20 = 120 gallons; 6 x 30 = 180 gallons! That's a LOT of wine for the end of a wedding celebration.
Through human eyes, Jesus' first miracle seems very superficial and not very spiritual. In fact, if we aren't careful we might catch ourselves judging Jesus, wondering if He was learning how to be God in human flesh and that He just hadn't gotten it down yet. However, we forget that God's plans are almost never our plans, at least not every detail. I often forget that His "ways are not my ways." (Isaiah 55:8)
As I look at this miracle again through Jesus' eyes, I see compassion on a new marriage starting under stress. Weddings come with stress anyhow. Imagine running out of food at the reception! Did you know that in Jesus' culture the bride's father could sue the bridegroom's family because they weren't prepared for this wedding? The act of shaming another family is very serious business in this culture…even to the point of death sometimes. Jesus saved the bridegroom, who was responsible for supplying the food, from shame by changing the water into wine.
In addition, wine in Jewish culture represented JOY. Jesus chose to create JOY at a wedding celebration that was very close to losing all joy. Here is the thing I want you to remember: He didn't just create enough joy to get through the last day. He created an extravagant amount of joy for these two lovebirds to enjoy for days, perhaps weeks, after the wedding celebration. He created enough joy for them to share with others…maybe even for the guests to take home as a parting gift…if the young couple had desired.
I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful class on Wednesday evenings called Love Does by Bob Goff. We have been using his DVD series, as well as his book Love Does. Since the DVD series is only five weeks long, we have chosen to have a service project every other week. In the last video, Bob mentioned something that was odd. He said that Jesus was not efficient with His love and that we shouldn't be either. Oh, how I love that concept!
Make no mistake. This isn't about earning our way to heaven. We can never do that. The red on that cross pictured above shows that. Each lovely red "flower" is actually a red piece of paper with one sin written on it and nailed to the cross by hundreds of people from my church family. Believe me, we each had more than one sin that could have gone on that cross.
This is about striving to be like Jesus. And Jesus loved extravagantly. He held nothing back, not even His own precious blood. He gave His own life so that we could live forever with Him.
Let me tell you what I think loving extravagantly looks like to me. When there is a food drive, I often see grocery sacks filled with foods that I know the purchasers would never feed their own families. Extravagant Lovers fill grocery sacks with foods they love, perhaps even sacrificing a meal out for their own family. Another experience I have had was with toy drives. Extravagant Lovers understand that purchasing gifts you would give your own family members for those in need reflects Jesus' attitude of giving. Furthermore, extravagant lovers don't put limits on loving others. They have real friends outside their economic circles, able to share a meal with both the wealthy and the homeless because they see both as souls.
Jesus didn't say, "They are too drunk to know the difference in the wines anyhow. Wine is wine. They should just appreciate that they didn't run out of wine."
However, I have heard similar words about serving those in need. Each time I hear these comments, steam comes out my ears. Unfortunately my heart hurts as well that the speaker has just revealed his/her heart issues.
"They should appreciate whatever they get."
"When you are truly hungry, you should be willing to eat what is given to you."
"I mean free is free."
"Summer is the only time we get down time. You understand why I can't give up that time to volunteer, don't you?"
"Our kids just don't feel comfortable with those kids from the neighborhood. I mean you can't know what kind of home they come from; so I can't volunteer at Care Play Read."
Extravagant lovers invest themselves…their own hearts…into the lives of others because Jesus did. They also feel sad when others don't love extravagantly, but they understand that giving grace to those who haven't yet learned to love extravagantly is also a way to love extravagantly. Some personalities are naturally geared toward loving, and others have to be taught by example. Perhaps giving grace is the most extravagant way to love to others.
So what does loving extravagantly look like in your life?