TO CHEW ON: "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." 1 Corinthians 12:12
The human body is endlessly interesting. It is complex with interrelated parts that can work in harmony to produce diverse results, from figure skating performances to brain surgery maneuvers. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church to the human body making an argument for unity in the church that will resemble that of the human body.
Paul points out three likenesses:
1. Both bodies are diverse.
Consider the assortment of parts, organs and functions within our human bodies. Even each finger of our hand serves a different function. Think of the body systems — skeletal, nerve, circulatory, reproductive, endocrine, digestive. List the multitude of organs: stomach, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, thyroid, intestines, skin...
The church body is also diverse. Paul talks of diverse gifts: faith, healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues, discernment, prophecy. He names diverse activities which a diversity of ministries carry out: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, helpers, administrators (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
2. Both bodies need each part.
I once saw a woman on the news who no longer had the ability to recognize faces. During surgery for epilepsy the surgeon had excised that tiny part of her brain that has face-recognizing ability. I didn't even know there was such a thing. Until we lose a function, we don't appreciate that there was a body part jogging along behind the scenes doing its job.
In the same way in the church we need each other. Paul underlines this aspect of the church body further on in 1 Corinthians 12. A body can't consist of only one or two organs, he says. It needs a variety, working in cooperation and not competition with each other to function properly (1 Corinthians 12:14-18).
3. In both bodies the malfunction of even the smallest part causes distress in the whole.
Have you ever tried to carry on as usual when you have a toothache? The tiniest part of our body in distress impacts our whole selves.
In the same way, Paul says we experience the church's unity as pain when one of our members gets hurt, is ill or missing (1 Corinthians 12:26).
I love this comparison of the church to the body. It spreads around the responsibility and the credit. It makes our variety and differences a good thing. It helps us relax because we don't have to be like someone else. All we need to do is be the faithful little toe, or knee bone, or vocal cord, humming along, doing our part to help the whole body work as one.
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to understand the church, Your body, better and be a more eager and cooperative member. Amen.
**********Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.