Saturday, January 14, 2012

[flexible order and changing identities]

From Miroslav Volf's book Exclusion and Embrace, discussing the prodigal son:
For the father, the priority of the relationship means not only a refusal to let the moral rules be the final authority regulating “exclusion” and “embrace” but also a refusal to construct his identity in isolation from his sons. He readjusts his identity along with the changing identities of his sons and thereby reconstructs their broken identities and relationships. He suffers being “un-fathered” by both, so that through this suffering he may regain both as his sons (if the older brother was persuaded) and help them rediscover each other as brothers. Refusing the alternatives of “self-constructed” vs. “imposed” identities, difference vs. domestication, he allows himself to be taken on the journey of their shifting identities so that he can continue to be their father and they, each other’s brothers. Why does he not lose himself on the journey? Because he is guided by indestructible love and supported by a flexible order.

Flexible order? Changing identities? The world of fixed rules and stable identities is the world of the older brother. The father destabilizes this world—and draws his older son’s anger upon himself. The father’s most basic commitment is not to rules and given identities but to his sons whose lives are too complex to be regulated by fixed rules and whose identities are too dynamic to be defined once for all. Yet he does not give up the rules and the order. Guided by the indestructible love which makes space in the self for others in their alterity, which invites the others who have transgressed to return, which creates hospitable conditions for their confession, and rejoices over their presence, the father keeps re-configuring the order without destroying it so as to maintain it as an order of embrace rather than exclusion.
Volf, p. 165

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