taking the words of Jesus seriously

Some books want to be born into this world. That Jacqueline Bussie’s latest work, Love Without Limits, almost wasn’t is a testament to why we so need it.

Written during the 2016 election cycle, the gestation of this work began with heartbreak. As Professor of Religion at Concordia College and Director of their Forum on Faith and Life, Bussie’s daily work is to foster compassionate dialogue. And yet in the news, on Facebook, around the dinner table, what she observes is the growing divisive power of “the single story” — the narrow, one-sided [mis]understanding of the other — and the lie that we must hate those with whom we disagree.

She responds with the audaciously hopeful answer: that God’s love is scandalously huge, embracing particularly those whom we have excluded or withdrawn from in fear. Penned as “her life’s love letter,” this book is a call for Christians (and for all people really) to lean into the growing pains of this love.

Woven throughout the Bible is a squirm-inducing, transformative love which complicates our simple narrative of “the other.” Bussie brilliantly exposes the parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, as a story of interfaith compassion shown by a hated religious outsider toward insiders. She reframes this story for us today in which a Muslim stops to help a Christian on the side of the road, a telling she admits elicits visible discomfort in the pews — as I’m sure Jesus’ version did among his own listeners.

READ: Jesus’s Radical Redefinition of Family: #LoveWithoutLimits

Seeing what Jesus does in this parable, Bussie realizes we must do the same. We must become proximate to each other through storytelling, for our personal stories bring us face-to-face, sometimes uncomfortably close to the humanity of another. And yet, the glaring proof of our resistance to this is that Love Without Limits almost didn’t make it to print.

The book includes two chapters challenging the exclusion of Muslims and the LGBTQ community, and features heartfelt personal stories like that of Bussie’s neighbors, a gay couple who adopted a special needs son, or a friend from college who explained once why he, as a Muslim, loves Jesus so much. The original publisher requested she remove these stories, deeming them “theologically out-of-bounds” for most readers. Refusing to betray their stories and her own message by deleting them, her contract was terminated.

Through a whirlwind act of Spirit and community, a story you’ll have to read in the book, Fortress Press picked it up and saw it through to existence. What grace for us that they did. Love Without Limits is a soul-laid-bare conversation about learning to listen to the lives of one another, about admitting our failures, and about allowing our shared humanity to transform us. This is a book for all of us.

About The Author


Sarah McIlvried works with universities and parishes in the Baltimore area to integrate Catholic Social Teaching, education, and social justice through service.

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