The Cross and Justice

I recently read a book titled Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf. The book is deeply personal as Volf makes clear in his preface. He does a brilliant job of articulating a unique tension that exists for the Christian community: the passionate pursuit of justice for the oppressed and the embrace of the oppressor in the cross. This was a tension he dealt with on a very personal level. Here is the first two paragraphs of the book.

After I finished my lecture Professor Jiirgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: “But can you embrace a cetnik?” It was the winter of 1993. For months now the notorious Serbian fighters called “cetnik” had been sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches, and destroying cities. I had just argued that we ought to embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ. Can I embrace a cetnik-the ultimate other, so to speak, the evil other? What would justify the embrace? Where would I draw the strength for it? What would it do to my identity as a human being and as a Croat? It took me a while to answer, though I immediately knew what I wanted to say. “No, I cannot-but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to.” In a sense this book is the product of the struggle between the truth of my argument and the force of Moltmann’ s objection.

It was a difficult book to write. My thought was pulled in two different directions by the blood of the innocent crying out to God and by the blood of God’s Lamb offered for the guilty. How does one remain loyal both to the demand of the oppressed for justice and to the gift of forgiveness that the Crucified offered to the perpetrators? I felt caught between two betrayals-the betrayal of the suffering, exploited, and excluded, and the betrayal of the very core of my faith. In a sense even more disturbingly, I felt that my very faith was at odds with itself, divided between the God who delivers the needy and the God who abandons the Crucified, between the demand to bring about justice for the victims and the call to embrace the perpetrator. I knew, of course, of easy ways to resolve this powerful tension. But I also knew that they were easy precisely because they were false.

The book wrestles with this tension throughout. I appreciate his honesty with the challenge of this paradox. Any thoughts on what he is touching on here?

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