Thinking about love
The church is blessed to have a fair number of truly outstanding New Testament scholars and Craig Keener is one of them. I first met Craig nine years ago when he was a professor at Palmer Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. He amazed me with the gift of a number of his books, to which I have returned again and again since 2007.
Keener's voluminous works include the popular IVP Background Commentary: New Testament; and commentaries on Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Revelation. His publications include a number of books on the Holy Spirit, miracles, and divorce and remarriage. Besides these, Keener collaborated with Glen Usry in authoring the books, Black Man's Religion and Defending Black Faith. Recently, Craig joined his wife, Medine, to write a book entitled Impossible Love (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Baker Publishing Group, 2016).
Impossible Love tells a thrilling story of challenge and opportunity, love and friendship, hesitancy and courage, faith and hope, war and peace. The book provides a model of how to infuse with agape (Christian love) the relationships we develop and maintain. Impossible Love shows the wonder of humility, the joy of other-regarding care and the invaluable gift of Christian discernment. It offers a portrait of discipleship predicated on love of God and marked by a constant pursuit of faithfulness to what is discerned to be the will of God.
The Gospels narrate the story of God’s amazing love – God appearing in flesh as a baby in Bethlehem, a preacher in Nazareth, a sacrificial lamb in Jerusalem, and then as the risen and exalted Lord. This Christmas, we ponder once again the story of God's love made known to us in the coming of Jesus.
So many scenes from the life of Jesus model for us the way of love: feeding the hungry, healing the sick, befriending the excluded, associating with people of low repute and opening doors of opportunity for those deemed unworthy of social inclusion – these are but expressions of genuine love.
And many of the sayings of Jesus teach us to love. We are encouraged to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind; to love friends and enemies; to love our neighbors as ourselves. In well known parables, such as those about the Good Samaritan and prodigal son(s), Jesus shows us how to love. Indeed, our Lord identifies love as the quality that will convince people that we are his disciples.
In his life and his teaching, Jesus showed his followers the virtue and value of love – the love that caused God to offer up the beloved Son for the salvation of the world.
During this season, Christians may wish to take time to reflect anew on the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord and to consider how to practice this love in our day to day lives. When the Holy Spirit nurtures the gift of love in us, of one thing we will become certain: We discover the capacity to love even those we once thought it impossible to love.