Hos. 14:2-10 Mk. 12:28-34
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“Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them. “ [Hosea, 14:2-10] “He is one and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burn offerings and sacrifices.” [Mark 12:28-34]
This Lenten season I have been reflecting about the concepts of love and forgiveness. In the scripture above, as in many of the Bible’s verses, the “beginning” and “end” emphasize “hope”, as well as the imperfection of humans and our ongoing struggles to accept, embrace and actualize the ideals of love and forgiveness in our lives. We may worship God, praising his name, but we still fall short in loving and forgiving the people who come and go in our lives. It was Jesus who said that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus did not separate the command that one’s whole being (heart, soul, mind, and body) should love God from the command that we should love our neighbors as equally as we love ourselves. Rather, Jesus joined these two commands, saying, “There is no greater command than these.”
In other words, “love”, even more than “sacrifice”, is what God desires of us. As Christians, we often speak of Jesus’ sacrifice, but it is important to understand his sacrifice was love. Jesus practiced what he taught; he loved God and he loved his fellow man and woman so much that he gave up his own life so that others might experience life. In the book of Mark, we are challenged as Christians to be more like Jesus in the way we live our lives.
Thinking about God’s message about love and forgiveness, I know that I sometimes fall short when it comes to “loving” and “forgiving”. While I believe I am often a loving, caring and forgiving person, I also know that I allow life’s challenges and stresses, as well as my own strong emotions, feelings and desires (which are not always rooted in a spirit of love and forgiveness) to steer me off course. And I know that I am not alone. Is it possible that loving and forgiving others can become uncoupled from our love of God? Do we always connect these two commands into one dual command as Jesus did, or is it possible that we sometimes fail to connect them? When we fail to connect them, are we truly walking the right path or could it be that we are stumbling? I don’t profess to be an absolute knower of truth, but I do believe that loving and forgiving are deep acts of faith. This Lenten season and in all seasons, I pray that each of us will reflect upon our love for God whenever we show love and forgiveness for other people. While we will likely continue to struggle and “stumble”, as people of faith we do not make our journeys alone. This is another of God’s blessings.
Kent Porterfield, EdD
Vice President for Student Development