Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Chief among the work’s many themes are that Christianity is love. Nouwen emphasizes that love must be reflected in action, not merely feeling. Although our material culture emphasizes the good feelings of love, love cannot be sustained by feeling alone. Nouwen advises that we act upon our love—that we create love by our actions; the feelings will follow.

One of the most important Christian values is to love one’s neighbor, and Nouwen asks the question of how we can do that. Reiterating Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, who crossed the road to help a stranger, Nouwen notes that in many cases people erect barriers against those who are different from them, just as the Israelites did against the Samaritans. A modern example is the barrier between Western, mainly Christian, and Middle Eastern, often Muslim, nations. We tend to objectify and vilify others rather than seeing them as our neighbors. Once we stop objectifying people, we will realize that they are like us: mothers who care about their children, fathers who worry about their family’s future, and brothers and sisters who want the best for one another. Like the Good Samaritan, we need to cross the road to become neighbors.

Jesus is central to Nouwen’s theology. Nouwen devotes many of his devotional days to helping readers understand the complexity of Jesus. For example, Nouwen assigns one day to each of the different characters of Jesus based on the Sermon on the Mount. He...

(The entire section is 445 words.)