Miroslav Wolf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, provides a brilliant and much-needed message today. Sadly, it’s a “Hotel Rwanda” world out there. Ethnic and cultural differences divide even Christians from living out Jesus’ John 17 prayer “that we would be one, even as I and the Father are one.”
Volf shows how when religion is de-ethnicized, ethnicity can be de-sacralized (49). Put more simply, Christians must get out of their narrow little theological boxes and enter into a vast spiritual home where God’s grace has assembled a lot of really “different” people. Here is a place, a world, where differences can be acknowledged and our common identity in Christ allows us to embrace one another. If we, as followers of Jesus, lived this out not only would there be fewer global ethnic wars (in the name of religion), there would also be fewer marital divorces because so-called “irreconcilable differences” would be able to coinhabit within the household of God.
As Volf says, “When God comes, God brings a whole new world. The Spirit of God breaks through the self-enclosed worlds we inhabit; the Spirit re-creates us and sets us on the road toward become what I like to call a “catholic personality,” a personal microcosm of the eschatological new creation. A catholic personality is a personality enriched by otherness, a personality which is what it is only because multiple others have been reflected in it in a particular way. The distance from my own culture that results from being born by the Spirit creates a fissure in me through which others can come in. The Spirit unlatches the doors of my heart, saying: “You are not only you; others belong to you too.”” (51)