Mark 12:28. Which is the first commandment of all? Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
For some reason I have always wanted to distill what was complex into something that was simpleto strip away everything that might distract me from the one thing that was more important than anything else. So naturally I was thrilled to discover Mark 12:28. My heart started pounding and my mind raced as I came upon it for the first time. After the question was posed, I quickly read on, anxious to discover the answer. You would think I had just found a winning lottery ticket.
Fortunately, it did not take long to get to the answer to what Jesus wanted us to do more than anything else. What was important to Jesus, and to the God he both represented and manifested, was LOVE. And not just any kind of lovelove poured out from our soul, heart, mind, and strength. In other words, from our soul we must feel love, think about love, and to act in loving ways.
As if things were not difficult enough, Christ gives us another task. He makes it clear that we are to love our neighbor as we love our self, even if that neighbor is from an undesirable countrythe Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25). And, worse still, we are to love our enemy (Matthew 5:44). In other words, and this is my long-delayed point, we are called upon by Christ to love people who live other lifestyles (homosexuals) and people who live in other cultures and practice other religions (even if some of them terrorists).
Now, you might ask, just how far do you expect me to go with this radical love stuff. Am I to condone homosexuality? Am I to allow gays and lesbians to marry? Am I to love terrorists? Well, as a matter of fact, yes! Love includes acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Love in action means “live and let live.” And it includes forgiving the unforgivable. In other words, you do not have to convert someone to love them. They do not have to think, believe and act like you do in order for you to love them. And, when your enemy strikes, you must forgive them.
Why do I say all of this? Partly because a friend of mine was recently shunned by church members because she is a lesbian, and partly, because I am worried about the society I live ina society that professes to be Christian but blatantly refuses to practice its more difficult doctrinesto love radically.
For those who doubt the importance of Christ’s message to love radically, let me remind you of what John Paul II told us. Defeating evil is not the answer. Preserving love is the answer. Evil will reappear again and again in different forms. Love must be there to conquer it again and again. Only radical love can do this.