Mark 12:28-34 (MSG) The Most Important Commandment
28 One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”
29-31 Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.”
32-33 The religion scholar said, “A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate—that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that’s better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!”
34 When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.”
After that, no one else dared ask a question.
“You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.” The Message translation has a way of saying things that really shock me into reality. The “border” rarely escapes a negative connotation in today’s political climate, but this passage in Mark ties the border to the edge of God’s Kingdom.
Four years ago, I stood on the edge of God’s kingdom. As I received communion in a bilingual worship service at the U.S.-Mexican border, a rusty, more than 20-foot tall steel fence stretched over our heads. For just four hours on a few Sunday mornings, an area known as “Friendship Park” in San Diego and Tijuana is open for families and friends to come together, although they are still divided by the wall that marks the current boundary between our two countries. All around us we heard quiet murmurs of, “Te quiero, te extraño, cuídate…” (I love you, I miss you, take care of yourself…). While we on the Mexican side moved freely under a banner of “Empathy”(picture 1 above), the U.S. border patrol ironically restricted with great vigilance any attempt for families to come together and touch hands through the tightly knitted metal (picture 2, U.S. side). For fear that “drugs might be passed through”, anyone close to the fence is prohibited from raising their hands toward one another. You can look, but you cannot touch.
Mark’s declaration that God is one as we stand divided is not lost while we listen to the words of Communion, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.”
Today I am thousands of miles away from that Mexico-U.S. border and yet that border runs right through my heart. The border that separates me from my neighbor when I allow myself to be brought to a quick hatred because I do not understand, do not relate, do not agree. The rusty steel-cut edges run straight through my heart when I separate myself because I am not “that kind” of Christian or do not vote “that way.”
And yet God invites us to imagine a love that binds us so closely to one another that we and our neighbor might become One in Christ—that we would love our neighbor as deeply as we love God and ourselves—with all our passion and intellect and energy. Then these borders that cause the bodies and ones we love among us to cut and bleed* might be transformed into the places where we stand instead on the edge of a healing kingdom, where God can look and say, “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.”
*“The U.S.-Mexican border es una herida abierta (an open wound) where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” -Gloria Anzaldúa in Borderlands La Frontera: The New Mestiza