Thursday, 23 June 2011

Embracing the Četnik

Miroslav Volf, in Exclusion and Embrace (Abingdon Press, 1996) tells an insightfully challenging and moving story - p. 9 – “Professor Jürgen Moltmann stood up and asked one of his typical questions, both concrete and penetrating: ‘But can you embrace a četnik?” It was the winter of 1993. For months now the notorious Serbian fighters called “četnik” 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 četnik – 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.”

We all need to face that challenge of being ready to embrace the unembraceable. We can all work out for ourselves who that might be – and, if we have done that properly, we are going to struggle with the concept. However, God’s ways are so very different from ours that we need to be ready to address the otherwise unthinkable. The Bible is full of stories of dodgy neighbours, unacceptable alliances and needing to see things a different way. That’s what churches should be like.

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