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I’ve been preaching through the gospel of Mark leading up to Easter, and frankly, I’m growing weary of the litany of conflicts, misunderstandings, trick questions, and angry debates. I’m tired of tensions escalating, whether it be between Jesus and his religious community, his occupiers, or his own disciples.

It’s quite likely my fatigue comes from what seems to be a constant stirring up of hostilities in our own context. I’m weary of our neighborhood’s weekly examples of animosity, whether it be among young children group texting a kid to “die b*tch,, a middle school field trip where another suburban school sat behind ours and mocked our kids with racial slurs, or a neighbor’s request to unblock a driveway eliciting an angry “you people always…” You people? It’s the national stage played out in everyday life, with everyone teetering right on the edge.

It’s such a gift, then, to experience a moment that occurs just days before Jesus’ arrest, when a Scribe and Jesus actually land on the same page. A teacher of the law, impressed with Jesus, invites what seems to be sincere dialogue. Which commandment is the first of all? As they talk, they find agreement not just with the first (love God) but the second (love your neighbor as yourself), and that no other commandment, let alone any burnt offerings or sacrifice, is greater than these.

Jesus responds, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 


No argument? 

No brewing hatred? 

Hallelujah. Common ground.

Or at least proximity enough to shake hands. 

I find a double gift in this exchange. The first is obvious – a reminder that the work of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves will get us there. The closer we are to that, the closer we are to each other, the closer we are to the kin-dom. 

The second has to do with the way Jesus interrupts cycles of animosity by inviting a fresh encounter with someone who represents his opponents. Where we might think, “here’s another one of those people,” Jesus sees a fellow human seeking understanding. Where our jadedness keeps us distant, Jesus stays infinitely open to genuine connection.

In the end, maybe it’s not the tension in the air that makes me tired as much as my propensity to spend my energy bracing myself for it rather than spend my energy on love. Maybe it’s not the hostility out there that fatigues me as much as my tendency to forget how the ever-creative kin-dom infuses every moment with the possibility of finding common ground.

Pray a song of prayer with me: The Greatest Commandment
P.S. Shout out to the excellent Minna Choi on keyboard!

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til is the pastor of Flossmoor Community Church in Flossmoor, Illinois. She and her family enjoy music, theater, books and travel. They especially enjoy exploring National Parks, interactive museums, and anyplace with water in the summertime. .


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Thanks for this. Being Mark, I’m g7essing the Lord Jesus was relieved as well, or encouraged. And surprised.

  • RZ says:

    ” It’s the national stage being played out in every day life….” And it is celebrated, normalized, as though this was the intended meaning of “freedom of speech.” A Christ-like response stands out in such contrast. In “the ever-creative kin-dom” you endorse, a victory does not need to look like a victory. A timely reminder. Onward Christian Soldiers or Onward Christian Disciples?

  • Deb Mechler says:

    “Infinitely open to genuine connection.” Thank you for your perspective on this.

  • Jack Ridl says:

    I try. The best I can muster is to refrain from retaliation. And move to ten isolated wooded acres.
    I don’t know how you do it.

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