Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 21: More Questions

"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. " -Mark 12: 28-34

What do you mean no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions? Wouldn’t you want to ask more questions about how exactly to do the Great Commandment? So I am to love God—what exactly does that entail? Is it praying, fasting, giving thanks, and going to church every Sunday? Is it connected to loving others because of the piece of God that lives in them?

I’ve spent much of my life around people who are very similar to me—similar religion, skin tone, socioeconomic status, nationality, physical and mental ability, similar criminal record (or lack thereof)—people who are easier for me to love, but how do I love those who are different than myself?

How do I love someone who kills, cheats on their spouse, or steals? Do I act impartially to them when I am around them? Do I extend them the same trust as I would to my best friend? What does forgiveness look like?

How do I love someone who experiences the mental and physical pain of not having enough to eat? Do I give them food? Money? A hug? Some of my time? Is love balancing my relative financial wealth with their relative financial poverty? What does solidarity look like?

How do I love someone who manipulates a charity for their own personal benefit? Do I excuse their offenses? Do I have to acknowledge them every day? Do I call them out? What does honesty look like?
How do I love people who make assumptions about me and treat me differently because of my race (or any other characteristic)? Do I explain/defend myself to them? Do I point out their prejudice? What does respect look like?

I’m to treat others as I would like to be treated, right? If I’ve not known the fear of one who doesn’t know where the next meal will come from, how do I love the hungry? If I have not known the bitter wind and cold for a night, how do I love the homeless? If I have not known immense wealth, how am I to love the wealthy? If I have not known the isolation of 20 years to life in prison, how am I to love the imprisoned? If I have not known what it is like to have power, how am I to love the powerful?

When I look to others claiming to express love, how do I discern what is actually love? Some believe homosexuality is a sin, and they call out gay people’s sin because they don’t want them to go to hell—is that love? I hear news about a priest who is put in jail because he believes same-sex couples should have the right to marry—is that love?

What does love look like over time? What is love in a fleeting moment with a homeless woman on the street corner? What is love with my significant other with which I’ll spend my lifetime?

I often feel like love is a verb, but sometimes I’m left not knowing what to do. Can I just spend time with others? Can I just listen to their story? Can I just be vulnerable with them? Can I just recognize and appreciate what we have in common? Is just being there enough, or is their more I can do?

What other questions do you wish the scribe had asked Jesus about the Great Commandment? Where might you find answers?

Alan Yarborough is serving in Cange, Haiti, representing the Diocese of Western North Carolina 
and the Diocese of Upper South Carolina. He's working in economic development
 for Cange and the surrounding area in the Central Plateau.

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