Body Parts

Read 1 Cor. 12:12-26.

If the title of this post grabbed your attention then it has served my intended purpose.  I don’t want to speculate as to what came to your mind upon reading the heading “Body Parts”; rather, let’s get right to the matter at hand.  In the passage above Paul employs the metaphor of the human body and its various parts to speak of the mutual relationship among members of the church.  The main point is made at the outset in vv 12-13: “Just as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is the Messiah.  For we all were baptized into one body, by one spirit” (The Kingdom New Testament, used throughout).  Paul is saying that the church is one as Christ is one, and this is by the Spirit.

This is a strong assertion of the church’s essential unity.  We are all in Christ; thus, we are one not only with him but with one another.  My arms and legs and eyes and ears and liver and spleen and so on are all different parts of my body, but they’re all connected as part of the same body.  In that way, they are united; they are one.  And yet, they’re different.  Yes, there can be a unity among members (whether of a physical body or a church) that are quite different from one another.  The unity of the body of Christ doesn’t come through bland uniformity but in beautiful diversity.

This is part of Paul’s point in vv 14ff.  “For the body, indeed, is not one member, but many” (v 14).  There’s one body, but many parts.  The parts need the body and the body needs the parts.  (I’m sure you’re happy to have your head, shoulders, knees and toes intact to your body, as your body is surely quite pleased to have said parts as well as others attached to it).  And yet there are all kinds of issues that arise among various members of the church.  Some don’t feel included because of the part they play or the part they don’t play.  Some feel perhaps like a gallbladder: what am I really here for?  Others feel like a little toe: always ignored unless there’s something wrong with it.  Others may feel like a helpful hand that is taken for granted.  Some may wish they were like another member, another part of the body: I wish I were on the music team or one of the deacons or the leader of such and such committee.  We wish we were other parts, any part but the one we actually are.

But the important point here is that every part matters: “If all the parts were one member, where would the body be?  So the result is this: there are many members, but one body” (vv 19-20).  Moreover, every part matters to every other part.  The eyes need the hand, the head needs the feet, and so on (v 21).  The visitor needs the usher to help get acclimated in a new community just as the usher needs the visitor to welcome and bless.  So get this:

  • Like the parts in the body need one another, you need the other people in the church.

This is important to acknowledge, for we easily come to think that all we need is a smooth worship service, a nursery to take care of my little ones, and an inspiring message and we’re good to go.  But being part of the church is so much more than all of this.  Rather, the church is about the relationship of people to one another in loving service and steadfast friendship.  See that older gentleman who always seems to slow you down in the parking lot or coffee line?  Hear that mother with three kids who can’t keep quiet in the row behind you?  What about the woman who hurt your feelings last week or the pastor who said something that disagreed with you?  What do they all have in common?  They’re part of the body, just like you, and you need one another to grow in the Lord Jesus.

And wait there’s more.  Not only do we need one another, but the church as a whole needs each and every member.  Paul makes this point as strong as possible by claiming that “the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are all the more necessary” (v 22).  And yes, Paul gleans this point from the same analogy of the workings of the human body.  Which parts of your body do you make sure are covered up well, even in warm weather?  Paul notes that these parts “we reckon more dishonorable” and so we make sure they are comfortably covered.  Our “more presentable parts” don’t need such attention.  Likewise, every person matters, and for this reason, we make a point to show special dignity to those among us who are more easily overlooked or undervalued, so that “all the members may have the same concern for one another” (v 25).  So also, get this:

  • Like the body needs all of its parts, the church needs you.

Not only do you need the others in the church, but they need you.  And they need you for more than attending service, for more than clapping at the right times and singing on key (or close to it), for more than the rote aspects on the surface of a church gathering.  Rather, they all need your gifts, your blessing, your love and service.  The church and all its members need the unique person and special talents that you bring to the community.  They need you.  Whether it’s in helping keep thing clean and in working order, teaching children, greeting newcomers, doing errands, answering calls, paying visits, or whatever else, you make a difference for the good of the whole.

So that this awareness of our value to the body doesn’t massage our pride, remember that just as the body needs you so you need the body—apart from it, what life do you have?

So I have two questions for you to reflection on.  First, how will you open yourself up to other people in the church to receive the blessing they have to give?  Secondly, how will you offer yourself to other people in the church—indeed, to the church as a whole—for the good of all and the glory of Christ?

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