What Does Radical Love Look Like?
“What does radical love look like?” Some Awana leaders and I were trying to define it the other day.
“It’s more than normal love,” we decided. “So, it’s different than the love of a mother for her child.”
“”It’s more than being loved beyond expectations, although that seems to be a part of it.”
“Maybe there’s some sacrifice involved” someone suggested.
All our ideas described some facet of what radical love might be. But then we went another direction which seemed to capture the essence of this so-needed yet so-rare love.
“Radical love. It’s being loved extravagantly at the point of your need.’’
‘It’s being scratched where some terrible life-itch is eating you away.”
“It’s being known so well, that where you hurt someone heals you.”
Maybe it’s easier to recognize radical love when we see it than to describe it. I heard this story recently and thought: That’s it!
An Awana missionary was struggling with the misbehavior of a boy in club. Every week he disregarded her instructions. Time after time she told him to “Stop!” one behavior or another. He was a storm waiting to happen to other children who interfaced with him. He was exhausting. He was a full-time job for some adult every week and his misbehavior was faithful! He never missed a week. The minute he showed up, club went down the tubes.
Finally in desperation one night, she blurted out, “Why are you such a troublemaker?”
Without hesitation, he looked her right in the eye and announced, “I’m hungry!”
“Why didn’t I realize?” she immediately asked herself. This church was in an economically strapped area. Most of the children received free lunches at school.
“I’m hungry!” Of course you are!
The next week the missionary was prepared. She came with pizza. She fed little-Mr. Tear-the-place-up and right before her eyes, a miracle took place. He became a normally behaved 10-year-old boy.
Her love still had not become radicalized, but her eyes were starting to see these kids for the first time. Their shoes were blackened and worn through. Colors were faded on their hand-me-down clothes. Gloves and hats were nonexistent.
These children are all hungry, she heard an inner voice informing her.
The next week she became a radical lover. She bought pizza for the whole club, and this has become standard operating procedure for that food-challenged group of Awana kids. Every child is fed every club night at this particular hungry-for-radical-love club.
Insightful research by Harvard University describes the role of caring adults in childrens’ lives:
“The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. Relationships with caring adults can turn toxic stress into tolerable stress. These relationships provide the protection that buffer children from disruption.”
Radical love looks like the presence of a caring adult.
Someone who not only knows when you’re hungry, but someone who makes sure you’re fed.
Someone who cares enough to go way beyond what’s expected to make sure you feel loved.
Someone who knows your pain and heals it.
Radical love. It’s sometimes called Awana. Radical love. It has your name all over it.
Why not share with us your stories of loving radically?