The Basic Challenge of Living our Faith
Most of us have been made very aware of the unrest that has been boiling in Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of a young black boy being shot to death by a white police officer. While we know that this happens far too often, we also know that it takes time to sort out the elements of truth from the elements of bias reaction and business as usual.
If we take the time to listen to all perspectives we know that there is a huge gulf between those who are often the beneficiaries of the status quo and the perceptions of those who can easily see this as easily included among the long list of injustices that they have experienced with great consistency over the years. In our sense of fairness we want to believe that the policemen responded appropriately to his situation, yet our sense of fairness also decrees that this needs investigated with all the resources of law and justice to make sure that if this is the result of illegal action that justice will prevail. None of us can be as fair and unbiased as we think we are. We are all imprinted by our experiences of life and the way privileges have been afforded to us or denied to us.
Doug Skinner a former associate minister at our church in writing about this incident contends that Theologian Miroslav Volf argues that in order to navigate this kind of social divide that we as Christians have got to come to terms with “the inner logic of the cross” (Exclusion and Embrace 214). He explains that he had just finished preaching on Romans 5:6-11 during which he had passionately argued that “we ought to embrace the other as God has embraced us in Christ” when he was asked if this meant that he could embrace a Cetnik, one of the notorious Serbian fighters who in the winter of 1993 were desolating Miroslav’s homeland and destroying his people? Could Miroslav, a Croat, embrace a Serbian soldier? And his honest answer was, “No, I cannot – but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to” (9).
It was the tension between his allegiance to the God who on Calvary’s cross set out to embrace those who were estranged from Him, and his own personal and painful experience of estrangement from the Serbians, his people’s despised enemies, that caused Miroslav to reflect deeply on how we can embrace those from whom we are estranged. And he concluded that the only way we can do this is by learning how to “enlarge our thinking.” He said that “in a creaturely sort of way” we need “to emulate God’s way of knowing” in Jesus Christ (251). This is what’s at stake when we talk about the Incarnation, about how God became one of us, about how Christ was “fully God” and “fully human.” In the mystery of God putting Himself in our place and carrying the full range of our experiences as human beings from birth to death into God’s very own heart, we have a model for how we can and must move from hostility to hospitality ourselves.