Often, my actions are driven by power, protection, and fear, but the resurrection of Jesus demands a different story. The victory of God signals a new state of affairs is present in the world. This new state of affairs frees us to pursue a different life, and it is full of power. First Corinthians 1:18 says, “The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but we who are being saved it is the power of God.” To live differently, to practice to word of the cross, is not simply connected to teaching them new ideas. It means living as a person who embraces all people because that posture is a different way in the world. Miroslav Volf says in Exclusion and Embrace, “The Spirit centers the self, de-centers it by fashioning it in the self-giving Christ, and frees it so it can resist the power of exclusion in the power of the Spirit of embrace.” As a follower of Jesus, I must offer everyone, deserving or not, the Spirit of embrace. Volf imagines a hug when he speaks of embrace. This is does necessary demand to be taken literally but as a posture with which we are to live.
Embrace is not my first nature, literally or figuratively. I struggle with the act of hugging others. I am more of a fist bump or head nod guy. Reconciliation or embrace, however, are crucial. This posture is the way of the Triune God. Jurgen Moltmann says, “The freedom of the Triune God is neither simply the absence of interference nor self-control, but vulnerable love.” This kind of reconciliation involves repentance, forgiveness, forgetting, and making room for the other in myself. The first move of repentance is difficult because I do not feel I have always been in the wrong. There are times I have been the victim, but Volf argues both the oppressor and the victim must repent because repentance is the only way to end the circle of fighting. Repentance might begin with an apology, but it is much more. It means to turn and live a different way. My way of relating is sometimes abrasive and other times dismissive, so repentance means I have to change both habits. The next step of embrace is to forgive. Forgiveness is hard to practice. There have been times I have been treated poorly, but embrace demands forgiveness. Even more, the cross of Christ goes beyond forgiveness to welcome the offender into himself. In a world of revenge and violence the cross is the outstretched arms of embrace.
For us sinful and limited human beings, following in the footsteps of the Crucified Messiah means not only creating space in ourselves for others, but also making space for their perspective on us and on them. In light of this comment, Volf describes a process called double vision. As humans, we are subject to our own particularities. As hard as I try to see the world objectively, from no where, I will always see the world through a particular worldview. This worldview is the product of my experiences, gifts, and relationships. Because I cannot see the world from no where, truth and justice are never objective realities. We do not see clearly, instead we see through a glass, darkly, however, our we make claims about justice and truth as if our vision is perfect. We pursue it as if we are seers. Often, this is my posture. I believe anyone who has a different position than mine is short sighted. This starting point creates a right vs. wrong dichotomy that fosters debates and exclusion. The outcomes of a debate is rarely realized truth, it is broken relationship and exclusion.
If the Church is to join the mission of God, we have to learn to accept a new vulnerable position. A position where we let our guard down in order to make room for the other. This means we have to make space for people from all perspectives at our tables. We have to learn to listen to others, even if they accept a different worldview or religion than us. The way of the Crucified Messiah is the way of embrace. Jesus welcomed people, especially real sinners. Now, this does not mean we do not pursue truth or justice. This does not mean we stop pursuing conversion; but it means we learn to follow Jesus down the road of vulnerable love because love covers over a multitude of sins.