The call of the disciple is to extravagant love for Christ. By definition, the word “extravagant” means to exceed boundaries or proceed further than necessary. In some instances, extravagance can look wasteful or crazy. But while loving God unconditionally might look crazy to the watching world, it’s never wasteful.
Yet, how often do we intentionally push past the boundaries? Could today’s Christian call his or her love for God extravagant? In some areas of my life, I’d say yes, but to what level of crazy are we willing to go? Are we willing to wake up a little earlier to start our day in God’s Word? Are we willing to make some sacrifices? What about entertainment: are we willing to stop watching a television show when it blares immorality? It’s a simple thing, but some of us aren’t even inclined to go that far.
What about a pay cut? Can you see yourself giving up financial security for the sake of the gospel? What about risks? Are you ready to announce to an increasingly hostile society that you follow Jesus? Would you fly to the ends of the world if Jesus asked you?
Ultimately, the question is, do you trust Him with your life, or have you placed boundaries around your faith?
This far. I’ll go this far and no farther.
Extravagant Love Versus Prideful Ambitions
Parameters are a good thing when it comes to sin but not when it comes to following God. But don’t we tend to set more parameters around our faith than around our immorality? I’ll follow the Lord here, but not there. I’ll speak up in this situation, but not that one. I’ll obey these commands, but not those. And if there’s any threat at all to my comfort or my life or future, I’m out.
In our haste to counteract uncomfortable situations, we guard against loving God too much, leaving us vulnerable to the grievous sin of loving Him too little. But no matter what unfortunate limits we place around our love for Christ, His love remains boundless, surpassing even human reason (Eph. 3:19).
Can you imagine if Christ had come with boundaries? What if Jesus had said, “Okay, I’ll put on flesh for them, but I won’t die for them. And if they make fun of me or things get uncomfortable, I’m out.”
Yet that’s what we do to God.
When our intimacy with God depends on what’s in it for us, that’s a prideful ambition. When we care more about what God can do for us than what we can do for God, that’s a prideful ambition When we cushion our love for God in selfish ambition and vain conceit, building God’s kingdom only when it’s convenient, comfortable, or according to our plan, that’s a prideful ambition.
But Jesus died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). Jesus died to not only free us from eternal damnation but to free us from selfish and sinful domination. He died so we could live exceedingly abundantly with Him, for Him, and unto Him, with extravagant adoration that causes the world to wonder if they’re missing something.
Extravagant Love Is Not Wasted
Mark 14:3–9 records a beautiful example of extravagant love when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, broke her alabaster flask of pure nard ointment—very costly—pouring it over Jesus as He reclined at a dinner party. First, she poured it over Christ’s head. Then she anointed His feet, wiping them with her hair (John 12:3). Extravagant? I’d say so.
Not only was that alabaster flask probably the most valuable thing she owned, but it was likely her dowry. Without it, she had little to offer potential suitors. But what gets me is that Mary didn’t pull Jesus aside to anoint Him privately. She extravagantly loved Him in front of all those attending the party. How many people sat watching? She didn’t care. What would they say? It didn’t matter to her.
The passage holds no hint of immorality—only buckets of humility, sacrifice, and devotion. Jewish women kept their hair covered, but Mary uncovered hers to administer the lowest of tasks generally reserved for gentile slaves: wiping a person’s dirty feet. As the fragrant offering filled the room, Mary didn’t reach for a towel but instead bent low to use her hair.
Judas Iscariot—who couldn’t handle watching the costly perfume wasted in such a manner—spoke out in disgusted resistance. But Jesus quickly asserted that Judas leave her alone. “She has done a beautiful thing to me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial” (Mark 14:6, 8).
Friend, please note, God doesn’t waste extravagant love.
Extravagant Love Is the Best Investment
Jesus said of Mary, “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her” (v. 9). And it’s true. We’re still talking about her today.
But I know Mary’s reward included more than that. Psalm16:11 says that in God’s presence “there is fullness of joy,” and at His “right hand are pleasures forever.” And that’s where Mary worshiped God—in His presence—literally sitting on the floor at His right hand, spilling her treasures at His feet.
I’m not saying extravagant love is easy or cheap. The fact remains that Mary spent a year’s worth of wages on her Savior in a few brief moments of time. I think she knew murmurs would explode the moment she cast cultural expectations aside. But Mary refused to place parameters around her love for Christ.
Can we say the same? Or does our love for God come to a screeching halt at the wall of convenience, fear, control, or cultural norms? What will people think? is the question looming large in most of our minds. But answer this question instead: isn’t Jesus worth a little embarrassment?
Praise the Lord, Christ’s love for us didn’t stop at humiliation or convenience or even embarrassment but far surpassed all respectable boundaries.
Extravagant Love Is Still Possible
If you desire to love Christ more but aren’t sure how, here’s a simple starting point:
- Spend more time with Him.
- Put yourself at Christ’s feet daily, regardless of the cost.
- Make His presence a priority, and your love will grow.
We will not learn to love God passionately without first learning to love God privately.
Mary exchanged all she had for all that belonged to Christ because she knew Jesus well. She’d already experienced the blessing of spending time at His feet. We find her there in both Luke 11:39 and John 11:32.
It might feel scary to dismantle the barriers surrounding our faith, but there’s no better decision. So go ahead and be crazy. Love Christ to excess no matter what it might cost you, despite the fear, in full display for all to see. Let the world say what they will.
It’s not wasteful; it’s worship.