My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.Psalm 22:1
In extremis is a legal term that popped into my head via an Instagram comment stating that extremism of any form is dangerous. My mind instantly protested. It would do because it’s connected to my heart these days and in my heart there is this rather extreme love for Jesus, a love that is changing my life, day by day, as everything other than that love begins to fall away.
This admonishment to not be too extreme also brought back a memory of my first, rather extreme emotional reaction to the gospel. It happened when I as a 15 year old watched the TV series titled ‘Jesus of Nazareth‘ for the first time. I actually got the message. Unfortunately, it would be another 35 years until that deep emotional response could find fertile enough soil to finally put roots down…
So yeah, you could say I’m an extremist. Yet, would you accuse a parent who loves their child enough to lay down their own life for them to be an extremist? How about someone who chooses to lay down their life for a friend and fellow soldier on the battle ground? Would you accuse them of extrimism or would you praise them, hoping that you too would be so brave if the moment ever came?
How do you think the soldier on the battle field would feel toward that brother in arms… or the child toward that parent? Do you think their love and gratitude for them would ever die or even begin to fade away? Would it perhaps give them a different perspective on the brevity of life and their own purpos?
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”2 Corinthians 5:21
The Ultimate Sacrifice
So how does the legal term ‘in extremis’ relate to us and what Jesus did for us? It is used to describe extreme suffering or a person being brought to the point of death. Mankind had been brought to the point of death by alienating ourselves from God through our own sinful nature. This required an extreme solution.
God is our loving father and feels our suffering as His own. That is why He offered up the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. My mind cannot fully comprehend a love so extreme. God knows each one of us so intimately and so loves us so passionately that this sacrifice atones for every single one of us.
In extremis relates to another term which was used in the legal sense, concerning transactions of any kind. That term is the Greek word tetelestai which means ‘paid in full.’ We had brought ourselves to the point of complete spiritual bankrupcy, so that it took all God had to bring us back from total ruin. Tetelestai is the last word Jesus uttered on the cross and it is translated into the English as ‘It is finished.’
An Extreme response
As someone at the receiving end of a love that brought the person who died for me to the point of suffering in extremis on the cross, I have to respond with a love and gratitude that is nothing short of extreme. This isn’t about religion for me; it’s about relationship. This isn’t about ‘getting the dogma right’; it’s about being redeemed, completely and without merit of my own, by a love that knows no bounds–an extreme love.
So, yeah, my love for Jesus is growing more extreme by the day. If this is not something that ‘resonates’ and if you think you are better off ‘following your own heart,’ please know that the Father of us all loves us that much that he has given us free will to do as we please.
We are indeed free to choose to remain in that alinated state, just as the prodigal son chose to disown his inheritance for temporal pleasure… but just like him, we are also free to return at any time; it is never too late.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’Luke 15:21-24
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.