By Joe LaGuardia and Karen Woods
Several weeks ago, Trinity’s associate pastor, Karen Woods, and I wrote an article on the art of reconciliation and truth-telling to improve race relations. This is the second of two articles.
In the book of Genesis, God created Eden, a place where God and humans communed together (Genesis 2). There, a man and a woman were equal partners in having dominion over the earth.
In Genesis 3, however, a crafty serpent exploited that one nagging feeling we humans have: That if we step out on our own and be like gods, then we can live independently from God.
By listening to the serpent, Adam and Eve sinned. Division resulted: Humans were cast out of the garden, hid from God, and were ashamed of one another.
Part of God’s punishment affirmed that division: men and women would live in a hierarchy from then on (Genesis 3:16).
People experience that division throughout the Bible until, at the appointed time, God sent Jesus the Messiah to die on the cross for Adam and Eve’s (and our) sins. Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death reversed the disharmony between God and humans, and humans one to another.
In Christ, all barriers fell away.
Jesus said that the greatest commandments was love for God and for neighbor. Paul argued that “in Christ” divisions do not define people (Galatians 3:28). Rather, people are brought into harmony with God and with one another.
Paul echoed this miraculous act in Ephesians 2:13-16, which states that Jesus’ blood brings us near to God and breaks down walls of division and hostility between people. We become a “new humanity” that makes up God’s family.
In Christ, there is no slave or free, male or female, Gentile or Jew. Christ rebuilds Eden 2.0.
No one cannot guarantee that all people will make a decision to follow Christ in order to benefit from that peace and reconciliation. But that is between individuals and God.
Our concern relates to those who call Christ “Lord.” Christians are obliged to live in this new humanity and model a household of God that invites people–regardless of differences–into what Martin Luther King, Jr., called “the Beloved Community.”
Jesus created this community before America was discovered, before slavery, before we were born, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Acts Rights of 1965, 1970, 1975, and 1982.
No amount of legislation makes us equal. Only living into God’s “new humanity” does. In that sense, Martin L. King, Jr.’s dream was not far from the Jesus’ vision for how the Kingdom of God plays out in every day life.
There is another thing about Jesus’ act of reconciliation: it never ends.
For far too long, we Christians have ignored what Jesus did on the cross, and many churches remain segregated, stagnate, lost, and aloof. In some cases, churches adhere more to the partisan politics of the state than the reconciling politics of Christ’s cross.
The major thrust of responsibility falls on Christians because the church is to be a space where co-existence and peace flourish. If Christians do not discuss these important matters of justice, trust, reconciliation, then who will discuss these matters?
Our concluding questions are important ones for our readers to ponder: What would America look like if Christians practiced a true spirit of peace and co-existence in a fully-realized Beloved Community? How would our churches, faith, and our very lives change if we adhered to the truths set forth in Paul’s second chapter to the churches in Ephesus?
How would we spread that Beloved Community beyond the walls of the church in order to bring about just communities in which racial profiling, economic inequality, and discrimination no longer have strongholds over the institutions our nation holds most dear?
May God bless us with a Christ-centered vision that overcomes the many divides that create hostility. May God bless us with renewed hope that the Beloved Community is still our inheritance, a blank check ready to be cashed.