In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Paul describes the church as first ‘reconciled’ and then as ‘reconciling.’ That twofold flow has gotten my attention. I want to write this week and next about it.
First question: what would characterize a reconciled church? Surely we would be on safe ground for answering the question if we stayed with the biblical trilogy of faith, hope, and love–what the church has come to call the the theological virtues.
A reconciled church would be a church of faith–a church that holds to what came to be called the kerygma in the New Testament era and then later the creeds in the early-Christian era. These affirmations would comprise the doctrine of a reconciled church, leaving other things (as kerygma and creeds do) as opinions. The critical distinction between doctrine and opinion would characterize a reconciled church.
A reconciled church would be a church of hope. Holding to humility, we would devote ourselves to prayer, in the hope that God would continue to perfect us and teach us how to apply the Gospel faithfully and creatively in each generation until Christ returns.
A reconciled church would be a church of love, where the two great commandments are the pegs upon which hang all the law and the prophets–just like Jesus said. In terms of life together, we would make love the bond among us, agreeing that differences would not divide us, and believing (as John Wesley put it) that even when we do not think alike, we can still love alike.
A reconciled church would be alive in the Spirit, nurtured by the sacraments and other works of piety and mercy. A reconciled church would glorify God through the nurture of faith, hope, and love.