“14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 14-27
I am going to spend the next three weeks writing about the theme of racial reconciliation. February is designated as African American History month — a time when we “join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.” This tribute also reminds us of a very dark part of our common life as Americans, where we enslaved other humans as well as treated them as if they were inferior to us. Even after emancipation, racial prejudice, exclusion, denial of rights and fear kept them trapped in servitude. We find ourselves still struggling to overcome these very forces today. I also think about many others who face racism and bigotry daily, either because of their skin color, educational level, economic status, their lifestyle or their country of origin. As I reflect on this reality, I am reminded of St. Paul who describes the Christian community as “a body with many members.” When I observe my son, Lennox, I am reminded of how complex bodies are and how interdependent the parts are. For example, my toddler son, Lennox, is attempting to walk, but it is clear to him that his feet, ankles, legs, knees, and hips all must work in sync to take just one step. God calls us into this great diverse human family with a truth that undergirds the whole creation: We are all brothers and sisters, and we need each other! When we acknowledge this reality, we begin to wipe away the sin of racism and bigotry because everyone we meet becomes a brother or a sister in God. We know that we need these individuals to accomplish the work God calls us to. Renowned African American novelist, playwright, and social critic James Baldwin captures this sentiment in his letter to his nephew, “we cannot be free until they are free.” This is the longing God has for his people: That we love each other just as he loves us.
As Baldwin writes in “The Fire Next Time,” “In order for this to happen, your entire frame of reference will have to change, and you will be forced to surrender many things that you now scarcely know you have.”