“Everything is 50-50 in our marriage,” a friend told me. “That’s why it works.”
I cringed, not knowing how to respond. Clearly she was proud of the way she and her husband shared things equally, down to the daily chores. But 50-50 isn’t just equal; it’s divisive. By which I mean you have to divide to reach it. Your eyes are always on the end point because if you go beyond 50, you might be taken advantage of.
Fifty-fifty requires a score card and frequent checks and balances. In order to score yourself, you have to score the other person too—which is often what it whittles down to. You didn’t put in your 50 this week, so why should I? That might work in a partnership, but in a marriage? In a friendship? I don’t think so. You can’t be forever keeping score and withholding 50% and expect a relationship to grow.
Jesus is all about giving 100%, and he expects (and equips!) us to do the same.
I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
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“As I have loved you” is the key. Jesus gave everything at the ultimate cost of his life to people who didn’t deserve or expect it. Now he lives in us so we can do the same.
The love Jesus taught and gave is not a matching gift. It’s all about giving more, and what it gives is life and joy. Fortunately for us, that kind of love doesn’t have to start with the costliest gift. A habit of love starts in the everyday giving:
- Love gives more than expected — bringing flowers on gray day, or finishing the laundry you only promised to start.
- Love gives more than is convenient — setting your own work aside to deliver a forgotten briefcase
- Love gives more than is comfortable — offering money saved for your rainy day, to help someone else through theirs.
- Love gives more than can be returned. It gives “just because.”
If you want to love like Jesus loved, start by throwing away the score card. Love is not giving 50 when you get 50. It’s giving 100% … and then giving more.
Isn’t that risky? Sure. After all, the other person might stick with 50, or worse — they might let you do it all.
And yes, there are times when giving crosses into enabling. But I’ve seen how giving 100 to someone else can prompt love in return. And I’ve experienced the draw of love, when someone gave me everything, no strings attached. But I have never seen withholding 50 do the same.
Let’s throw away the score cards. “Loving must be as normal to us as living and breathing, day after day until our death,” wrote Saint Teresa of Calcutta. “Love does not measure; it just gives.”
Amen to that.
 This quote is part of a reflection gathered in “Jesus, the Word to be Spoken: Prayers and Meditations for every Day of the Year.” It was quoted today in Magnificat magazine in conjunction to today’s gospel, John 13:31-33a, 34-35.
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer