Exclusion & Embrace in the Garden of Good & Evil

Tomorrow, before I receive the Body and Blood of the Lord I will again kneel and pray the Lord’ s Prayer:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.


(Traditional, taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1662).

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.

Wow, Lord, you want me to forgive that person or that group who has done me so much harm and who even now shows so much hatred towards me?!

When someone wrongs us often our first thought is to retaliate, to lash out and to return to the ‘other’ the same pain caused to us. But, then, at other times, our response may be to become silent and later, perturbable to others. We will constantly gripe and complain, projecting onto others the self-justifying anger and resentment that we bear from the original hurt. The inception of unreality quickly takes shape. It’s not the reality from above.

The story of revenge is as old as the Scriptures but Jesus put an end to this cycle of anger born out of an unforgiving spirit.

Think about the following words in the context of personal relationships and also in the unfolding drama of human relationships across the globe.  Global warming, as a public ‘issue’, is silly compared to the rage, hate and evil which turns brother against brother in a continuing cycle of violence.

Quotes from Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion ~ without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.” (p.124)

“Only those who are forgiven and who are willing to forgive will be capable of relentlessly pursuing justice without falling into the temptation to pervert it into injustice.” (p.123)

“When God sets out to embrace the enemy, the result is the cross. On the cross the dancing circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in (see John 17:21). We, the others ~ we, the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace.” (p.129)

Volf on the Parable of the Prodigal Son:  “relationship has priority over all [moral] rules” that reconciliation ~ the ultimate goal of justice – could be made complete.” (p.164)

“Without entrusting oneself to the God who judges justly, it will hardly be possible to follow the crucified Messiah and refuse to retaliate when abused. The certainty of God’s just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it. The divine system of judgment is not the flip side of the human reign of terror, but a necessary correlate of human nonviolence. (p.302) (emphasis mine)

Also consider forgiveness as practiced…

Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom (April 15, 1892 ~- April 15, 1983) was a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Listen to her story here and this short video about her forgiveness.

How to stop evil:

“To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned. After the first victory, evil would die if the second victory did not infuse it with new life.”

– Miroslav Volf
The End of Memory, Remembering Rightly In A Violent World


Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”


“The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for. Resistance merely creates further evil and adds fuel to the flames. But when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

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