There is so much happening in the world right now that it’s overwhelming. Recent events in the U.S. have only added to what has already been a difficult, even traumatic, year. There is too much that needs to be said, and not enough space in this short window to say much of it. But when things like this happen my mind always turns to Mark 12:30-31.
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 neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love is the foundation of what Jesus tasks us with, the foundation which God’s Kingdom is to be built upon. This reading challenges us with the idea that if we truly love God then we must also love those who are created in His image, giving of ourselves for their sake. The word love here is ἀγαπάω (agapaō) which is supposed to be the highest form of love there is. One which is a reflection of God’s own love, and therefore a reflection of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. But what does it mean to love someone like this?
I think the core of this reading is relationship. If we are to love someone in a way that reaches beyond mere goodwill we must know them. We might think that because we know what people have done through their actions, or because we have assumed their intent or their reasons, that we do know someone. But this is a poor measure for a love like this.
We should ask ourselves if we know their hopes and their dreams? Do we know what they are passionate about? Or what fills them with joy? Do you know what breaks their heart? Have you ever seen them grieve and be vulnerable? It’s in these places the differences between us are cast aside and show our common humanity. Our common created image of God.
Prejudice, fear, hate. These are things that are defeated by knowing someone in relationship and fellowship with us. By not assuming what happens in the mind of someone else, but instead by learning who they are. To know them and understand them the same way we know and understand ourselves. That is how we love our neighbour as ourselves.
God give all of us the strength to put our prejudices to the side, to not assume about others and instead build relationship, to love as we have been called to love and as we were first loved. Because it will take all of us together to overcome these times.