This is the title of the sermon that I heard in this morning’s worship service. Delivered by the Reverend Doctor Robert Smith, Jr., professor of preaching at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, it was inspired by the words recorded in Second Corinthians 5.18-21. He shared with us his intention to marry the doctrine of adoption to that of reconciliation. While the message focused heavily on adoption, I wish to record the revelatory insights of the latter:
Our Christocentricity is greater than our ethnicity (Dr. Smith used the example “Black Christian”; we know that black is a category of race not ethnicity.). Dr. Smith argued that our ethnicity should not describe our faith as Christians; instead, our faith should define who we are within our respective cultures. He pointed us to the words of Paul in his letter to the church at Galatia: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, here is no longer male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3.28, NRSV).
While adoption is unilateral in that it did not require our participation (Romans 5.8), reconciliation is bilateral. It is both between the offender and the one who has been offended and between the offender/offended and God. But, the reconciliation that we demonstrate today is cosmetic and shallow. We shake hands but reconciliation calls for us to hug. It must not be adhesive but rather cohesive in nature. Dr. Smith shared with us that reconciliation is often difficult because we rehearse the hurt, adding Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in No Future Without Forgiveness: “Forgiveness takes the sting out of memory.” He asked then that we would allow God to take the sting of out the memory.
Separate but equal is a practice of the Church. This is not just a practice of a racialized society but we are separated in our worship before God because of the notion of superiority in membership in the church based on length of attendance. Dr. Smith reminded us that there is nothing unreconciled in the Trinity and encouraged us to get rid of our casts, our clicks, our sects as it has no place in Christ’s Church.
I pray that these brief highlights from this morning’s message would encourage us to live into the reality of the “Church of the Undivided Christ.” Amen.