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(Part 104)


September 16, 2014
Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

The Church is one body, and a particular Christian community is one body. There are many members. “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body” (v.12a). One includes the many, and the many constitute one.

Here oftentimes is the challenge and the problem. The body of many members does not function as one. In fact, it often is prone to division and even actual break-up. How can it be that “there may be no division in the body” (v.25a)?

First, the focus must always be on Christ. Just as the body is one, “so also Christ.” (v.12b). The Christian community is the body of Christ. We need to put on the mind of Christ. We need to be obedient to the one Master and Lord who is Christ. We must seek to please no one but Christ. If we did that, how can there be disunity? Unfortunately, many go by their own human thinking, and again unfortunately, such human thinking is often influenced by the world, the flesh and the devil. Thus commitment to prayer, to study and meditation on the scriptures, to formation, etc., is essential. The striving for holiness is crucial.

Second, we must accept the reality that we have been called to the body with many others. “Now the body is not a single part, but many.” (v.14). We are in the same boat and “suffer the same fate.” “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.” (v.26). If we realized this profound truth, then we would be quite concerned with everyone else, would desire others’ well-being just as our own (does “love your neighbor as yourself” resonate?), would strive to help those falling short, would want no one left behind, would pray intently for the needs of others. Indeed, God designed the body such “that the parts may have the same concern for one another.” (v.25b).

Third, we must accept that we are all different­in temperament, in wisdom, in preferences, in priorities, in ways of doing things, in depth of faith, etc. We are, so to speak, “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons” (v.13b). We make allowances for such differences. We hone our ability to discuss disagreements through dialogue. We love each other in spite of perceived shortcomings (but always think of the splinter and the wooden beam). We can even celebrate the differences, accepting that such diversity makes for an interesting mix. “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?” (v.17).

Fourth, we must recognize the importance of everyone else. And in this, recognize that the least among us would also perform a noble purpose, because that is what God has assigned to him. “But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.” (v.18). Dare we second-guess God? Dare we claim to know better than God? Dare we dictate on God as to what is an important task or not? “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary” (v.22).

Fifth, we must foster a spirit of belonging and rejoice in that, that we indeed have others who will share the work with us, and who will value us, whatever our assigned task is. “If a foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,’ it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.” (v.15-16). We must not be apologetic or discouraged by our seeming lowly place in the body. At the same time, those who have greater roles should not disdain those who do not. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’” (v.21). Even leaders are supposed to be servants. In fact, “those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety” (v.23).

So here is our challenge. Like it or not, “as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (v.20). Recognize this, rejoice in this, look to God’s favor through the life and work of the body, and do your share to bring about the reality that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, .... and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” (v.13a,c).

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