Love is not ultimately a feeling. Oh to be sure, there are feelings that accompany love, but the feelings of love are like the ocean’s tide—they come in and they go out. The feelings of love are real; the feelings of love are legitimate; but the feelings of love are not the essence of love. At its core—at its foundation—love is a choice. But it is not just any choice; rather, love—very specifically is choosing to keep on choosing the other person’s best interest over your own selfish interest…whether you feel like it or not. This very particular, specific and (one might say) peculiar choice is the essence of love.
And this truth about what love essentially is, isn’t just true of romantic love—it is true of all love everywhere. This truth about love’s essence is true of parental and familial love. Choosing to keep on choosing the other’s best interest over our own selfish interest is the essence of love in friendship. And this particular and peculiar choice is what it means for God to love us. God has forever chosen our best interest, no matter what it costs God—that’s why there’s a Bethlehem, a desert of temptation and a hill called Golgotha—for the ultimate definition of love comes in God forever choosing our best interest no matter what it costs God. The most powerful icon I know of capturing this is seen in the crucifix. Choosing the other’s best interest over our own self-interest is what Love is because that’s Who God is—as narrated with eternal clarity by the apostle John—God is love. God is forever choosing our best interest, no matter what it costs God.
So when Jesus comes along in our reading today and responds to the inquiry of a lawyer as to what the greatest commandment is and Jesus answers by pulling from Deuteronomy and giving what we have come call the Great Commandment (vss 29-31 of today’s reading), what Jesus is saying is that choosing God’s interests and God’s agenda over your own and thereby choosing your neighbors best interest over your own selfish interests is what the whole deal boils down to.
And when we began to understand more accurately what loving really means; when we began to understand that to love is grounded in what we choose—well then we begin to understand that loving God, loving our neighbors…let along loving our enemy hasn’t a blessed thing to do with how we feel. It has everything to do with what we choose—regardless your feelings. This peculiar truth is profoundly illustrated in a donkey’s feeding trough doubling as a baby’s crib in a barn on the outskirts of Bethlehem. This peculiar truth is why the One Who is Love insisted on coming to us so that in His living and loving we might catch our first unobstructed glimpse of what real living and loving looks like and in the process be saved, freed and transformed from ourselves so that we too can…love. This peculiar truth is powerfully witnessed on a Cross outside Jerusalem and this peculiar truth transforms the entire human story when the stone enclosure to a garden tomb is eternally turned to rubble by Resurrection’s power—this peculiar truth is Love!
Living fully human happens because of Love. Salvation happens because of Love. Death is overcome by Life because of Love. Your life finds transformation because of Love.
Jesus replied,“The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
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