Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing…”
What I wouldn’t give to only lack one thing in the eyes of God. Maybe I’m projecting on you, dear reader, but I’m guessing that most of us aren’t in the enviable position of the rich young man who approached Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel story, lacking only one thing. Instead, most of us are lacking in several areas. For instance, I often find it difficult to trust God and so I try to do everything myself. I also struggle to love my neighbor, especially in car line or at a 4-way stop sign. I worry about money more than I know I should, and loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength is a whole lot easier said than done.
Even if I only lacked one thing, I would still probably find myself in the position of the rich young man. That last thing is what he has held most dear, the only thing he is not willing to let go of, even if it means walking away from Jesus’ promise of eternal life sad and alone.
Notice, however, what happens even before Jesus invites him to leave behind that one thing. Mark tells us that Jesus loved him. That, dear reader, is what grace looks like. Even in the face of this man who Jesus knew couldn’t let go of that one thing, Jesus chose love. This is, of course, great news for me. Even as I lack many things that would make me perfect in the eyes of God, God loves me. God loves you too, even in the face of whatever flaws you might have.
This passage is often read as being harsh and judgmental, and in many ways it is. Perhaps the fact that the man lacked only one thing made the choice to follow Jesus that much harder. For those of us who lack much, it seems easier to throw up our hands and say, “Save me Lord.” So maybe this passage really is full of grace. Even as the man walks way, Jesus loves him. He doesn’t chase after him because that’s not how grace works, but I imagine there came a day when the man realized that even if it meant giving up everything, he’d walk the way of eternal life with Jesus, and Jesus welcomed him with open arms. That’s what the love of God is all about, no matter what we lack, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, God is ready to welcome us into relationship.