Listenings: Widening the Circle

Nouwen ends the movement from exclusion to inclusion with a section entitled, “Widening the Circle.”  It is very important to embrace what he says.

Nouwen draws on his psychological training to enrich his theological point that our ability to become inclusive on the outside rests on our ability to integrate our inner life.  This is his way of describing what spiritual formation refers to as “being” before “doing”—what out predecessors meant when they said that social holiness emerges from personal holiness.

What we leave disintegrated on the outside is likely not unified on the inside.  For example, racism is an outward superiority based on an inner feelings of inferiority.  In the area of Christian leadership, high-control and demanding individuals are driven by an interior perfectionism.

This is why Nouwen wrote earlier about the need to move from the house of fear to the house of love.  People who are exclusivistic on the outside are usually afraid of something on the inside.

But when we can receive God’s love, the healing grace of that love enables us to love our neighbors—which is exactly how Jesus defined the second great commandment.

So, the movement from exclusion to inclusion is knowing we are God’s beloved, and knowing that, we can love others in Jesus’ name.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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