It was the summer of 1968. I was 17 and just moved into a rental home on Walnut Street in Bristol, PA with my family. Two doors down lived Nancy B. Keller who was 21 at the time. She was raised in that house.
My band, The Midnight Hours used to practice on my front porch. Nancy would walk over and listen. She claims that I was stuck up but I know the truth–I was shy. We started dating and fell in love.
On November 1st of the same year, her birthday, I proposed to her and presented her with a 1 ½ carat diamond engagement ring that cost me $450.00 (that’s $3,350.00 in 2018 dollars!). At the time I was employed by a restaurant as a busboy/short-order cook making $1.35 an hour. That ring cost me 8 ½ months of salary! Some said it was extravagant, others, just plain crazy. She said yes and we were married the following July 12th, 1969. That was fifty years ago, and she still wears that ring.
I want to talk to you about extravagant love, the kind we receive from Christ, and the kind we are to express to others.
Christ’s love makes my 1968 diamond ring kind of love look like amateur puppy love. Actually, there is nothing that compares with His love. God the Father bankrupted heaven to give us the “unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15). Jesus would rather die for us than to live eternally without us. Now that’s extravagant!
Followers of Jesus have a personal and intimate relationship with Him. They know God in order to make him known. Out of the knowledge of God comes the added benefits of an indwelling love and an indwelling presence. One of the clearest and most powerful ways of communicating our knowledge of God is through love.
Love is an important theme in John’s gospel. John is known as the apostle of love. He uses the word love as a verb or noun fifty-six times. The word used for love is agape – a beautiful word. This term became the standard, the mark, the distinguishing feature by which Christians were to love friends and enemies alike. Jesus showed us a new example of love (John 13:4-17) by washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus showed us what love looks like. Love is choosing to do someone’s dirty work for them. Loving like Jesus means getting on our knees and getting our hands dirty in the messes of life.
When we go out into the world, we venture into dangerous and precarious territory. We can expect to be treated wrongly for doing right. We can expect to be persecuted for demonstrating peace. We can expect to be hated for loving.
Love may be the most powerful apologetic in the Christian’s arsenal. If God is to be known, people need demonstrations of love and not just communications about God. When true love is demonstrated, peoples’ lives are changed. Love, hand in hand with truth, is the strongest persuader any believer can give. Love is the most powerful message we can preach.
Jesus, teach us to love…EXTRAVAGANTLY!