(This blog updated 4 September 2018)
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honourable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honourable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honour and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad.
27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (From the New Living Translation)
For many years these words of Paul to the Church in Corinth have fascinated me – which part of the body do I identify with? If everyone within Jesus’ family represents His body on earth, and every part of the body is essential for its health and ability, which bit am I? Which bit are you? Is everyone present, or are we limping a bit today?
There are a few areas of the Bible that affirm this next principle that we also need to consider before we go off and start getting any grand ideas about ourselves: “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body” (Paul writing to the church in Colossae – Colossians 1:18). If Jesus is the head of the body that is the church globally, I would suggest none of us is the neck either – the single section that connects the body to the head – might I suggest that is the role of the Holy Spirit.
So again, the question still exists – which bit am I?
The answer may only start to form easily if we begin by seeing this in the context of the local church. In your own church, what sort of role do you have?
I’m the lead minister in my congregation. I’ve already discounted the head and neck and to be honest, for a long time I’ve seen myself as the left elbow. I can’t make the church walk anywhere, I can’t force it to digest anything and neither am I a hand that can take hold of a concept and make the body use it. But I can ‘nudge’. I can prod and suggest – but note, I’m not the only one who can do that – I’m just the left elbow. I cannot force anything or anyone into an area of the life of the body. I see my role as one who can hopefully keep the community, or body, attentive to Christ.
That’s in the area of a local church. When it comes to THE Body of Christ, the Church Global, maybe I’m a nerve ending that helps flex part of the muscle that makes an elbow move. I guess this blog is an illustration of that via the world wide web. I’m hopefully nudging someone somewhere to think and reflect on Paul’s letter at the top of this article and consider how it applies to them, their life and their community.
So as each of us thinks about the question, predominantly in the part of the Church we live and share within – what has God created us to be? If we’ve been made a ‘foot’, how well do we carry out that role? Do we always turn up on time, prepared with the right footwear or do we sometimes not join in and then the body can’t go anywhere. Or maybe we don’t keep our personal relationship with God tidy and therefore are unprepared for our Church? Does it then just limp along because you’ve come with a flipflop instead of a walking boot?
Paul’s analogy of the Body of Christ is humbling and equalizing. No single part is more important than another, each of us is crucial for the health of the Church, every part is important and needs to be honoured, and every part needs to join in and communicate with the others – the network of the nervous system is equally crucial. If no-one other than Jesus is the head, then as the body stays attentive to Christ, all its parts need to communicate and consult to work together and not hinder or harm each other.
It matters not a jot what titles we hold – whether we’re a Coffee Maker or a Bishop, a Welcomer or a Pastor, a Church Council Member or a member of the Cleaning Team, an Administrator or a Kids Worker, as Paul says, “we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen” – the least in the worlds eyes might just be the most important part of the body. Every part of the body has a symbiotic relationship with everyone else and Christ. When it comes to any part that has a leading component, it is always as a servant of the whole body.
So, which part of the body are you? How well is your part doing today? Fit and healthy ready to be called upon by the body, or a bit sick and in need of some healing? Do you stay connected to the Body of Christ, or do you need to start get back to it? Sometimes, periods of absence from our Churches can cause a faith ‘malaise’. The body analogy also explains why – as Paul says in Romans 12:5, we ‘belong’ to each other – get separated and we loose our blood supply.
Maybe its time to revisit or even explore the part that God “has prepared in advance” for you?
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad”