I’m getting old. I’ve been saying that since I was about 30, and I laugh at 30-year-old me regularly for saying that. What in the world did he know? The reason I know it’s really
true this time is that my body aches a lot. Lately, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been sitting or lying down for 30 seconds or 7 hours my body reminds me it’s not what it used to be with creaks and pains every time I stand up. Every. Single.Time.
Though to be fair, as my wife says, it’s not the years…it’s the mileage. And the maintenance. Some of the pains are related to being stupid and lazy, of course. There are tons of people older than me in much better shape than I’m in.
Thankfully the Body of Christ is not having the same problem with deterioration. Jesus is actually making it better every day. But there are some similarities in that, just like when you exercise a particular muscle group for the first time in a while, sometimes we become aware of a part of the body we forgot (or never knew) was there. Our awareness, usually, caused by that part screaming out for attention.
You’ve done that right? Lifted weights or run for the first time in a while and all of a sudden there’s that one muscle screaming for attention…because it got used in a way it wasn’t used to. And the Body of Christ works that way sometimes as well, which makes all of your lives much more complicated than you’d like.
So consider this section from 1 Corinthians 12 (ESV):
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should 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 should 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 be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 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 parts, 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 parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all
suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
That “muscle” in the Body screaming for help…that’s verse 26 here “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”
So what does it mean to be a part of the Body? We know it’s painful at times and that our
sin gets in the way of community, but how should we approach this issue?
That’s where Paul’s intro here about “differing gifts” is important. Being a part of the Body means that not everyone is like you. We have hands, feet, eyes, ears and so on. Hands are not eyes. Eyes are not feet.
Being different can be complicated. People that are “not like you” can be annoying, confusing, or even infuriating if you can’t recognize the value of the differences.
When I was in school we had a one day pass/fail class called Critical Thinking. In one of the exercises we took a “test” that divided us into lateral thinkers (connections, divergent possibilities, “big picture”), vertical thinkers (details, logic, analysis) and a middle group. The three groups were then given a picture on the screen to look at and, as a group, describe the picture.
It was a cartoonish drawing of a woman walking a dog and carrying multiple shopping bags and such. I seem to remember she was wearing a hat. What happened next, though, was extremely helpful for me and my understanding of people. They asked us to read off our description of the picture, and the two groups at the ends of the spectrum (more lateral and more vertical thinkers) got pretty animated with one another. The vertical thinkers wrote down things like “3 packages”, “2 blue bags”, “dog is a schnauzer.” The lateral thinkers, though, came up with a narrative about how she was an assistant with an unreasonable boss asked to do chores on her lunch break.
The vertical thinkers were openly, honestly, offended at the lateral thinkers. It was amazing to watch. I think the professor had to cut things off or the boxing gloves were about to come out.
I learned that day that not only do people approach issues very differently, but that it’s important for you and me to understand that the different approach doesn’t make the perspective any less valid. In fact, much like the blind men feeling different parts of an elephant, we need one another’s perspectives to see things more clearly. And when wemiss that it is the perspective that is different and not the principles at play we will start to impugn motives to the other or make other false judgments. And that’s part of what Paul is getting at here when he says in verses 18-20, “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 parts, yet one body.”
And that’s the second thing about the body you need to remember: we all need the rest of us. Hands are no good without eyes or eyes without feet. Your potential is maximized because of the differences others bring. Now I’m not talking to you here, but the person next to you, right? Every one of you needs to know that the gifts others bring, especially those you find the most frustrating, are what is going to make you the best hand/eye/ear/foot you can be. 20/20 vision is great, but lacking feet to get you to go see something new, or lacking a hand to hold something up so you can look at it from other perspectives…is it better then? And you eyes tend to think the hands are pretty annoying moving stuff around when you just got it to where you wanted.
Can you see how much better things can be if the Body cooperates together, appreciating and leveraging every single gift it has? Some of you are very creative, divergent thinkers. Others are vertical thinkers…everything precise, in its place, and always adding up to details that can be measured. Most of you are somewhere in between and have leanings one way or the other. And all of you bring something unique to the table for your work, your family, your church and for every group God makes you a part of.
So that’s how you need to view the Body of Christ, brethren:
- Not everyone is like you
- You need people who are not like you
- We function best when everyone embraces, appreciates and joyfully lives in the differences, each of you doing what God created you to do
God’s plan for the Body is for every one of us, you and me together, to be the part He’s designed us to be. And when you learn to not only accept, but love that truth you’ll find the gifts of others strengthening you in ways you never even imagined.
“God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
My challenge to you is to live that truth out with every group of believers that you interact with, and most especially your local church.