Find a mentor to live the extreme life
If you want to live the extreme life, you will need a mentor. You’ll need someone who is also living life differently than everyone around you. John the Baptist points us to the most extreme life mentor.
John points us to Jesus. He is wise. He is powerful. So powerful, so great, that even John is not worthy to be his slave. Let me explain. In John’s time, a house servant’s most basic task revolved around the master’s feet: washing the master’s feet, carrying his sandals, and unfastening the straps of his sandals.
Ancient teachers expected their disciples to function as servants with one exception: disciples did not tend to their master’s feet. His audience must have listened with amazement as this extremophile began talking about another one who was coming into their region who was so great—so extreme—that even he wasn’t worthy to be his slave.
John is preparing the way for Jesus. “God with us.” The kingdom of God is the focus of John’s message. The kingdom of God is the focus of Matthew’s writing. It is near. Literally, it is at hand. It’s close enough to touch and feel and enter into.
But you have to get off the couch. The extreme life is not a spectator sport. It cannot be lived through past accomplishments. It cannot be lived through family. It has to do with you and me deciding once and for all that the kingdom of God is worth more than anything else in this life.
That’s an extreme decision. It takes an extreme commitment. What is it that causes such a commitment? What is it that caused John to go all out for the kingdom of God? Why such an extreme approach to life?
The only answer I can come up with is that he had experienced the extreme love of God. John knew God was up to something, and it wasn’t going to be found in the cold, lifeless religious system of the day.
The religion of the day had learned the motions well. They knew the laws. They’d even added laws on top of laws to protect the laws. They knew when to meet to pray. They knew the songs to sing and when to sing them. They knew their religious heritage. But they did not know God.
And John knew that God was about to show up. He was at hand. Emmanuel, God with us, had come into the world and was about to come into their lives.
Why? To give them more laws? To scold them for their mistakes? No! Jesus was coming to show them the love of God! You see, only when you know firsthand his love can you live with extreme commitment. You don’t need the security of the world. You have the one thing you need: God’s love.
Only when you know firsthand his love can you see where you need to change. You can see where you are pooling your energies in all the wrong places. You can see all the dead-end roads you’ve gone down looking for love. And when you see that, you repent. You change. You turn around. And you start bringing your life in line in such a way that you start learning to live — not by laws, but by love.
The lifeless lives of the people John spoke were not the result of not doing anything. They were busy people, just like us. The lifeless lives were the result of pursuing everything but the love of God. They neither knew God’s love nor how to love each other.
Only an extreme love can cause an extreme commitment.
Only an extreme love can cause an extreme change.
If you want an extreme life you have to find a love that will free you from endless pursuits and that frees you from toxic people and barren religion. Take a cue from John and follow Jesus. He is love. And his life is at hand.