Monday, June 6, 2016

How Selfish Behavior is so Easy: Mark 12:32-33 (NRSV)

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Through the two great commandments, Jesus emphasizes the love of God and neighbor as the foundation of the gospel. As the scribe above points out, and Jesus later in this passage affirms, we cannot simply offer up personal sacrifices, immerse ourselves in cloistered ministries, fellowship with our own inner circles, and then ignore our love for God and neighbor around us. We are called, through Christ’s love, to reach out to the margins. And if we love God with everything we are given, the natural outcome is to love our neighbor, not just the neighbor who is comfortable to love such as those who think like us or run in our circles.

I readily struggle with this truth.  For just this weekend, my family and I went out for lunch at a local diner.  Although we normally get decent service, our waitress was slow, did not offer us drink refills, and had to be tracked down several times to bring us the few items we needed. Our food arrived late, and, overall, our lunch was not a restful, pleasant experience. My natural instinct was to leave less of a tip. I normally leave 20% on all bills, but this time, I left 15%. It may not seem like much of a difference, but it was more about the principle. After the less-than-charitable conversation in the car on the way home, I felt like my heart missed something.  Here was an opportunity for me to love someone despite their shortcomings, and I failed. I, instead, gave into my own needs rather than the needs of others. Why is a selfish heart such an easy temptation? This incident is a reminder of how much I need God in my life.

These two great commandments should govern our lives, and in them, we find true Christian witness. We are not identified as Jesus’ followers through our “burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It is through our love that all will know we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35).

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.