Love is sticky, Emily McGinley

Love is sticky. Sticky? I thought about this again: sticky. Love is sticky. What does that mean? I was reading this essay on the Korean term jeong by Anne Wonhee Joh. “…jeong,” she states, “emerges out of relationships that are not always based on mutuality….” It’s like this space that emerges “between the oppressed and the oppressor, between love and hate, between Self and the Other and between the Divine and the world.” Jeong is rooted in relationality and it has this disturbing quality of dissolving those barriers between oneself and another. It is disturbing because it’s the kind of love that doesn’t let you off the hook, making us stick around when we’d rather leave and care when we’d rather pretend something didn’t exist.
In a way jeong threatens our personal sovereignty, the space that we hold as ours and makes us kind of feel like we are not our own; we are not the only ones in control of ourselves. It stirs one to action on behalf of another – however reluctantly. Jeong is a major component of love – it reminds us that we are human and, not only that, but it also reminds us that those around us are human as well. Jeong is “sticky” because it reminds us that: “we are, whether we want to admit it or not, always connected to one another.”


There are good things and bad things about jeong, but what I’d like to highlight this afternoon is that as Christians, we carry with us the ultimate jeong because the ultimate jeong has been shown to us. As Christians, Paul states, we are God’s chosen ones and because of that, we ought to clothe ourselves with all of these virtues – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Okay, we can get that. But then, it gets well, sticky. Not only are we responsible for cultivating within ourselves these virtues, but then we also are responsible to those around us – bearing with one another, forgiving one another… and then, on top of all of that, we have to love one another. We have to love one another because love is the binding agent that ties us all together.

How many times did your mother or father or brother or sister or partner want to write you off and walk away – or you them? But, also, how many have failed? I have a friend whose immigrant parents convinced her to take out cash loans and on her credit card, maxing it out, when she was in college so that they might save their dry cleaning business. The problem was, they were terrible business people and they knew it. Over and over, they approached her, asking for more money. And she gave it to them until she couldn’t anymore. She left college with student loans and 17% interest a month hanging over thousands of dollars in credit card debt. She learned that this had happened to her older brother as well and this was the reason why he never came home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or any other family time together. He chose to walk away. But she could not. She had seen how her parents had struggled and struggled her whole life. And, even though they had taken advantage of her naivete, she discovered that her love for her parents was sticky. She just couldn’t walk away.

We fail to walk away because, even when we don’t want to care, we do. We can’t help but be concerned about someone even while we’d like to give them a good kick in the pants. We are here because of a sticky complicated love; a sticky complicated love that compels us to stand in those rough places, as it has been called; a sticky complicated love that compels us to examine our systems and our souls; a sticky complicated love that gives us sight in places where we were once blind.

This is jeong. It’s that thing inside of us that just won’t let us walk away. And this is what Paul is talking about: as a people of one body, bound together by ultimate love, we can’t walk away from one another – even if we’d like to. How many of us have frustrations with the church? How many of us have even tried to walk away? But, look around: we are here! Why? Because we have clothed ourselves with love, and well, because love is sticky.

From her blog:

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