Who belongs to Christ?
“There is no salvation outside of the Church.” This statement is famous, delivered in the third century by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and is not always correctly interpreted.
Many Christians in the past have made the mistake of identifying the kingdom of God with the ecclesial institution to which they belonged. They flaunted arrogant certainties, cultivated prejudices against other religions and called the others impure and far. In the most abhorrent cases they also resorted to force to coerce others to conversion and baptism.
Church and Kingdom of God do not match. There are gray areas in the church that exclude themselves from the kingdom of God, because sin thrive in them and there are huge margins beyond the confines of the church that can be included in the kingdom of God, for the Spirit acts there.
“Practitioner” is not equivalent to “inserted into the Body of Christ.” “Believer” is not one who limits himself to religious practices: mass, sacraments, prayers, devotions, but one who, in imitation of Christ, practices justice, brotherhood, sharing of goods, hospitality, loyalty, sincerity, the rejection of violence, forgiveness of enemies, commitment to peace.
The line of demarcation between one who belongs and one who does not belong to Christ does not pass in the domain of the sacred, but in that of love to persons and “in all nations he listens to everyone who fears God and does good” (Acts 10:35).
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Wherever love, joy, peace and forgiveness sprout, the Spirit of the Risen Lord is present there.”