The Beloved Community

Swiss theologian Karl Barth and Martin Luther King, Jr. enjoying a moment of laughter.

This year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration comes in the fifth week of the American federal government partial shut-down over a wall. In the name of the Beloved Community — the just and peaceable society — Dr. King and Dr. Barth had things to say about building walls.

Karl Barth and Martin Luther King, Jr. are formative influences on my life. I hadn’t realized until this morning how fully their theology and ethic were in the warp and woof of last Sunday’s sermon at Knox Church in Cincinnati. With apologies to these two great figures, we post an excerpt from a sermon of one of the many lesser lights who live in their long shadows.

Something there is in the Beloved that doesn’t love a wall. Something there is in Jesus that tears down the walls between neighbors and turns enemies into friends, brick by brick, stone by stone — between the Judeans and the Samaritans, and between the male apostles and the Canaanite woman; between the “righteous” who choose purity over compassion and the “good” Samaritan who binds up the wounds of the one in the ditch; between the publicly scorned blind beggar and the charitable nickel-and-dimers who passed by on their way to secure homes and lavish parties; the crowds on the street and the sinful Zacchaeus in the sycamore fig tree; between the Beloved Son and the hosts of sinners who flocked to him for acceptance, forgiveness, healing, hope, and compassion.

For Jesus, love was not a private thing. Love must be made public. As Cornel West puts it, “Justice is love made public.”

Sermon by GCS, Knox Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati, OH, Jan. 13, 2019

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Jan. 20, 2019.

4 thoughts on “The Beloved Community

    • As usual, you’re on target, Mona. I’ve been working on a post to engage the religious right. I keep running into a wall. I hardly know where to start. It all seems so obvious. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? What are we missing? What iceberg lies hidden beneath the surfaces of the conflicting points of view?


      • Below the surface, at least for some fear; for others black and white thinking so the problems solved and they can move on with their lives and not ponder. I try to ask God to bless them all, for God’s blessings begin in agape love. I need that blessing for myself for all the shadow sides of me I do not see.


        • Hi JoAnne, You’re the same generous, tender-hearted, clear thinking disciple of Jesus I knew in the eighth grade. Yes to everything you’ve said. It’s by the presumption of “righteousness” that we damn ourselves. So many shadow sides we cannot see. Only agape love can overcome the darkness. As William Sloan Coffin said, quoting Richard Sibbes, “There’s more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us.”

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