Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (v. 17)
I can’t be sure, but I suspect the man talking to Jesus is a “three” on the Enneagram personality test. As a recent student of the Enneagram, a tool that helps us understand ourselves and others, I enjoy “reading” people to guess their number. This bad habit has resulted in fun dinner party conversations and a few annoyed looks from family members.
When considering someone’s personality type, you speculate on the “why” behind their actions. Not only is it fun, it gives insight into what someone’s personality looks like in healthy and stressful situations.
Enneagram “threes” are known as “achievers”—distinguished role models who get the job done. Jesus is embarking on a journey when the man encounters him and asks a self-centered question. He wants Jesus to reduce the grace of God to a measurable achievement that he can attain. He makes himself the center of the conversation, asking, What must I do?
Jesus refuses to give this man an A+. Instead, he redirects the man’s attention from what God offers to who God is. Next, he calls the man to recognize that grace lies beyond what a person can achieve. Even with all the commandments he’s kept, this man will never attain perfection. Perfection, however, is not necessary for experiencing God’s love. Jesus, looking at him, loved him (v. 21). God’s love challenges us to grow in unexplored ways. Jesus sees this man with his mental checklist and loves him exactly as he is. Jesus’ challenge upends the man’s desire for measurable achievements and calls him to transform his practice and perspective.
When have you experienced Jesus having your “number” and loving you just as you are? When has Jesus loved you in a way that challenged you to grow?
God, whose love is beyond measure and beyond our capabilities, lead us to follow you in risky, challenging ways. Amen.