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…When we follow the way of Jesus, we follow a path that leads to a generous way of life that derives from the generosity of God. While some people pop into Christian faith as fully-mature stewards, most of us follow a journey in which our generosity grows as we become ever more aware of the generosity of God and of how to respond adequately.
The way of Jesus begins with the recognition of God’s love for all and includes responding to that love with love for others.
My colleague, Clark M. Williamson, summarizes these things. “The good news is that God is the God of a singular promise and a singular commandment: The promise is that God’s love is freely, graciously, offered to each and all, the command is the twofold requirement that we are to love God with our whole selves and to do justice to our neighbors as ourselves.”1 In this context, justice is the social form of love.
We can think of this foundation of Christian life not simply as a circle but as an ellipse—a kind of a circle squeezed into an oblong shape that has two centers: the promise of God’s love, and the congruent call of God to love our neighbors.
Love in the Ancient World
It is worth remembering that in the world of the Bible the notion of love had less to do with feeling and romantic love of the kind celebrated in contemporary Western culture, and more to do with a careful decision to act for the good of another person or the community. Love was an action that asserted the worth of the other. In the ancient world, the actions of love—actions for the good of others—certainly included motivation of compassion and tenderness, but was centered in making a choice, sometimes painful, to act for the ultimate benefit of other individuals and the community.
Jesus demonstrates this kind of love, a generous overflowing love, and calls disciples to love in the same way. Not only does Jesus lead the way by showing how to choose for the good of individual and community, but the risen presence of Jesus empowers the disciples to love
similarly. The journey of Jesus ended with resurrection. God’s promise is that our journeys will end that way, as well.
[1 Clark M. Williamson, A Guest in the House of Israel: A Post-Holocaust Church Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 22. This formulation permeates Williamson’s writings]
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