Practicing the Radical Love of Jesus the Christ

by Rev . Katherine Katsanis-Semel

Right now, while living within an increasingly polarized nation, the hardest thing to do is to keep emulating Jesus. I utilized the word emulating for a reason. I utilized it, for as Christians, we are not simply called to follow Jesus; rather, we are called to emulate Jesus. We are called to live by his example, not just quote his words (or commentary on his words). Moreover, we are not only called to participate in ritual, behind closed doors. Rather, we are called to bravely love on the discouraged, on the frontlines. We are called to—as they say—walk our talk…or, ideally speaking, walk his talk.

We are actually asked to love our neighbors (yikes!), as we love ourselves. 

This endeavor becomes difficult when our neighbors may hold views that we do not hold ourselves. Yet, in phenomenally strange times, such as the ones in which we live, we are doubly reminded to be Christians first and everything else—including our sexual and gender identities—second.

We are reminded to be real servants of God first and foremost. Not just the kind who are polite to your face, and then gossip about you behind your back. Real servants of God. Not just the kind who accept your tithe in church, and then call you a racial, ethnic, homophobic or transphobic slur outside of church. Real servants of God.

Not just the kind who say that they respect your community, and then turn around and seize your right to serve your country. Real servants of God. Not just the kind who curse you first, and then forgive you second—but the kind who are so busy forgiving you, that they don’t have energy for much else. (I’m still working on this last one!)

We are called to be real servants of God.

Yes, the word servant implies humility, which isn’t always easy to integrate. Even so, this is the witness for which our broken world hungers. This is the missing element for which our society at large craves.

Recently, I had the honor of providing such a witnessing presence—a presence, that is, that I hope bears witness to Jesus’ love. I was honored to provide it to our neighbors across the street (who think and vote differently than I do), and to a Log Cabin Republican colleague, at a local networking event.

During both encounters, the other party seemed surprised when I replied to an emotionally charged, political statement in a manner that has come to be countercultural lately. When both my conservative neighbor and conservative colleague began a sentence with, “Look, I know that folks on the left hate Trump, but—”

I politely interrupted.

I interrupted with, “I’m on the left, and I don’t hate him, nor do I hate Pence, nor any one of their comrades. As a lover of Jesus, I wish them well, and I pray for them. I don’t agree with them, and will peaceably resist their agenda. Yet, I do not hate them as people.” In both cases, my reply initiated thoughtful conversation, during which understanding (rather than animosity), grew.

In my humble view, my civil, even loving response visibly relieved both parties. (It seems that many of us have come to expect attack, rather than civility these days.) That being said, I was actually doing a “C” job, according to my limited understanding of scripture. An “A” job would entail me setting aside time in my daily life to pray more for our administration and actively work on forgiving every white supremacist, for example, in our nation.

For Jesus’ followers to really step up our game, we would need to engage in less finger pointing and more, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” dialogue. We would need to go in deep and deeper into the mystery of Jesus’ heart – a heart so wise, meek and kind that it was capable of singleheartedly altering human history.

As a queer woman, I believe that my Christian witness holds a unique power.

It seems that folks already see me as more of a “real servant…” (meaning not your typical, judgmental religious person). Thus, they often pay more attention to what I say, post and generally do. Integrity catches peoples’ eye. These days, it catches it even more.

During this divisive season, I’m profoundly trusting in the power of my witness, and the strength of sharing out of truthful love, rather than alienating fear. I pray that my blog can encourage you to believe more in the power of your witness, too.

Photo by Lorie Shaull