As a teenager I fell for the Columbia House Music sales pitch – they’d send me 10 free CD’s for one measly, dusty penny! Then, over the course of a year they’d keep sending me CD’s in the mail, and I would only have to pay for the ones I kept. This was an asterisk moment where I should have read the fine print. It turned out that if I opened up a CD and listened to it, I bought it. If I didn’t return a CD within the small window of opportunity, I bought it. And no, I didn’t get 10 CD’s for a penny, that’s ridiculous; I eventually had to pay for them all.
“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.”” Mark 12:28-31, NIV
Jesus could not have made it any easier or simpler for us to understand: love the Lord your God; love your neighbor as yourself. It can’t get any straight-forward than that. Love…the good, beautiful, nice, heartfelt moments…violins slowly rising in the background as two friends, brothers, or partners enjoy one another’s presence as they walk down the sidewalk together.
Looking at this verse from Mark, I feel like this is also an asterisk moment. On the outset of reading this passage, it sounds really wonderful. Anyone can love! Love God, love my neighbor, love myself – it’s all sunshine, Spider-Man face paintings, churros, and orange sodas. Seriously, sign me up!
But there’s a lot of other stuff that comes with this love. Being called to love is being called to hurt. Sadly, sometimes the churros aren’t covered in sugar, the orange sodas are warm, the sun is blocked out by gray clouds, and the face painter packed up and went home hours ago. This partner to love – hurt – is not something that I enjoy. Truthfully, I don’t like experiencing hurt and pain and rejection, but I suffer through it because I’m called to it.
The difficulty in loving others is that I’m bound to get hurt – and get hurt a lot. I wrestle with whether or not to take on this love and the accompanying hurt. Is it better to not love, to not hurt, to not be heartbroken again and again? I can reject this call and live my life for myself, avoiding the bad and seeking out only the good.
But this love/hurt is something I choose to accept. I choose to put myself in the messy chaos of it all because I want to be there with others. I want to love, and I’ll take the hurt that comes with it. Some days I’ll eat churros with lots of cinnamon sugar, some days I’ll eat them plain, and some days I won’t be able to even find the churro cart. In the moments of hurt I’ll still be living out the greatest call on my life – to love.
much love. sheth.