The Contagious Love of God
Worship Set: Worship Playlist by Matt Shaughnessy
Scripture: Mark 12:28-31
Video: The Contagious Love of God on Vimeo
Take It Further: A Public Confession by Julie Cramer
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
The yelling brought us out of our offices into the hallway. We stood for a few seconds, looking at each other, until it became clear: a coworker was in cardiac arrest. We scattered—some fled to flag the ambulance; some froze; and some huddled in the conference room, awaiting the outcome. I raced to the man’s office and began performing CPR. The chest compressions cracked his ribs, and when I finally pressed my mouth against his to push air into his lungs, my coworker’s skin was tingeing gray the way watercolor spreads across paper. I knew he had died, even as the paramedics arrived and paddled his heart. I heard later that, in her grief, his wife wondered if we had done enough to try to save him.
In Mark 12, Jesus distills the Mosaic Law to two commandments: 1) Love the Lord with all of your soul, mind, and strength; and 2) Love your neighbors as you love yourself. His selection would have roused Jewish attention in the way olfactory glands ferry memories to our minds, or the way our muscles recall the contraction of repetitive movements. These were the words of the Shema—the ritual morning and evening prayers that bookended Jewish days. So then, how are these words to bookend our own days—given the current economic and public health crises—or the million possibilities to follow? How do we not fear the fearful?
We all respond to challenges differently, with a myriad of motivations. In the case of my coworker, I had not taken CPR training in years and was unprepared for the sound of a rib crack. What sent me down the hall while others went outside could have been the conditioning of a childhood filled with episodic emergencies, a nurse for a mother, or whatever number I may be on the Enneagram. Who knows? I can assure you it wasn’t heroism. I had been afraid.
And here’s my first confession: My emotions lately have swung between fear and trust, despair and hope. COVID-19 took the lives of two of my coworker’s relatives. People who had been on the cusp of getting out of homelessness, have lost their jobs, and once again have been dealt another setback. My friend in New York City, a Chinese American, fears more anti-Asian attacks; and my mother—who is in a high-risk category—feels like a sitting duck. If God sent his son to the cross; if John the Baptist was beheaded; if the Jewish people were tortured and gassed in my grandfather’s lifetime; if, as my neighbor, Ms. Hattie, told me, blacks were lynched in a tree on the corner of Parkwood and North Davidson Street—how on earth am I not to be afraid?
And here’s my second confession: In my fear and frail humanity, I wonder if God will do enough to save us.
Theologically speaking, I know he has. But if he didn’t spare himself in his son, then he also won’t spare me. In my weakness, that’s what I want. I want assurance that I will be spared, that my loved ones won’t suffer, that somehow it will all be okay. As speaker and writer, Sharifa Stevens said, “We don’t know if we’re in the jail with John the Baptist, or in the lion’s den with Daniel.”
So, what should I do? I can confess my real thoughts and feelings (1 John 1:9); God knows them anyway. While I long to be a courageous Christian, I am but a broken beggar. I cling to Christ, crying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). I can admit we live in constant tension as followers of Christ; there is physical death ahead, but also resurrection and eternal life. I can ask fellow believers, with different ways of reacting and with different gifts, to speak truth into my cacophony of thought. Of utmost importance, though, I must reorient my mind, day and night, in the practice of the Shema and the great commandments. I must root my days and actions in the truth of who God is—“the most constructive force in the universe”—when destruction abounds. I must meditate on the Lord who is one (Mark 12:29), who intervenes (Col. 2:6–15), who rescues (2 Tim. 4:18), and who restores (Rev. 21:1–7). And where I fail, I can trust him to forgive me, reviving my heart and breathing new life into my bones (1 John 1:9). This—this is the humbling, awesome, all-powerful, contagious love that drives out fear.
We’d love to hear from you. Please share with us below your thoughts and insight. We would love to see Take it Further be a place where as a community we dialog, and together we all take the conversation further.
*Note: If you wish, you can look up this and other Bible passages online at youversion.com
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