The Embrace of Vulnerable Love

Post a Comment » Written on February 1st, 2014     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Submitted by:
Pastor Jan Bros, Abbey Way Covenant Church

Part of my personal work as a member of the Commission on Biblical
Gender Equality has been to become more aware of the conversation that
is happening within the Evangelical Covenant Church and among
Christians elsewhere concerning the understanding of the roles of men
and women in the church and in particular church leadership. There is
much written conveying multiple viewpoints. I can get easily
discouraged when I read literature that uses mean spirited or unkind
words to convey meaning. In these moments, when my soul is sad, it is
important for me to remember the truth we hold together as the body of
Christ even when we do not agree on the particulars.

Here is a post I wrote a number of years ago in reflection and review
of Miroslav Volf’s work on repentance and reconciliation. I think it
is important we do not forget the essentials in the work God calls us
to do.

“To repent means to resist the seductiveness of the sinful values and
practices and to let the new order of God’s reign be established in
one’s heart.” ~Miroslav Volf

In Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity,
Otherness, and Reconciliation
, Miroslav Volf challenges and instructs
his reader to reconstruct a new way of understanding about how we live
out the Kingdom of God among us. Thoughtfully written, carefully
executed, the book deconstructs conventional ways of understanding the
relationships between oppression, victimization, justice, and
reconciliation, while constructing new patterns of thought, inviting
us to live in God-like “vulnerable love.”

Confronting the usual divisions of victim and perpetrator, Volf
pointedly calls for the repentance of both parties, calling into
account the conventional division of victim and perpetrator–one being
“good” and the other “bad”–which enables the continuing construct of
patterns of sin through the generations. The goal is reconciliation
between the factions, which is only obtained through forgiveness, and
an extension of grace.

Never having experienced firsthand the deep enmity between warring
parties of nations divided against it as Volf has, I have experienced
the political unrest of the divisions between husband and wife, child
and parent, and church member and leader. There may not be literal
guns being shot and blood being spilt, but hatred and deep-rooted
bitterness abounds, given voice behind closed conference doors.
Stubborn spirits, wounded by untold numbers of inhumane interactions,
in relationships that were created to exemplify the Creator’s love,
now are stuck in pointing fingers of blame and hurt, exposing a
battlefield as bloody as in any armed conflict.

“From a distance, the world may appear neatly divided into guilty
perpetrators and innocent victims. The closer we get, however, the
more the line between the guilty and the innocent blurs and we see an
intractable maze of small and large hatreds, dishonesties,
manipulations, and brutalities, each reinforcing each other. The more
attentive we are, the more accurate the portrait of the Apostle Paul
paints of humanity–of “all” from which “no one” is exempt (Romans
3:9, 20)–strikes us.”

So what is God’s call to us when we are embroiled in our own wall
building selves?

The answer comes to us in the vulnerable love of Jesus. To open to
this love requires repentance: a turning around, a turning towards God
and then our neighbor. It is when we admit first–I have sinned; I
have failed; Father forgive me; transform my heart; free me from my
bonds–that the power of God’s vulnerable love can be released and
manifested in us for our healing and forgiveness.

But it cannot, stop here. We must be willing to become the vulnerable
love that we have received. This is the power of the Gospel in all its
glory, to change everyone, bringing the possibility of reconciliation
and peace for all.

Volf is clear, however, warning us this reconciliation is not the
final reconciliation but an on-going reconciling action until the
final, complete reconciliation at the end of the age. Let us not be
deceived. The Messianic age is not a political reign, but a real
Kingdom, which comes to all who dares live into Gospel of repentance
and vulnerable love.

I pray that truth is reflected in how we live together as men and
women under the reign of Christ. May we continue with arms extended in
our own embrace of vulnerable love with God and each other.

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