Community: The Body of Christ
“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.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
This section of scripture exemplifies community as a body, and is conceptually simple; however, it is oftentimes difficult in practice. Back in college, I had a tough time understanding this message. I felt like so much of the Christian community I was a part of was focused on missions and being sent somewhere that it made me feel terribly out of place. I knew God wasn’t calling me to missions, yet part of me felt like I had missed something. I had stumbled into the trap that is described in 1 Corinthians 12:17. While my mission field may very well be my office, my family, or my local community; that doesn’t make that mission any less important. Paul describes this in verse 25 saying that, “that there may be division in the body, but that the members have the same care for one another.” We should have this kind of focus. If we are all part of the body then it stands to reason that what happens to one of us affects all of us.
To take this analogy farther, what happens when someone has cut themselves off from community and stops following God? I would liken this to losing a limb. Do you guard your hands, your fingers, and your feet? In much the same way, we should come to our brothers’ and sisters’ defense when they are struggling.
We have all been created differently with different purposes. Some God created quiet and reserved while others bask in the attention of the crowd, but in all of this we are called to support and love one another as Christ loved us. As Christ lead us, so too must we love each other with the same servants heart that Christ himself demonstrated even as he was being led to his death on the cross.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fail, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Previous to this section in Ecclesiastes, Solomon discusses the unhappiness of those that eschews the ties of friendship and live solitary, selfish lives. Man was not created to live alone. When God created man and placed him alone in the garden, He saw that it was not good. This is the first time He found something in creation “not good”, and as a result He makes a helper for him. While this verse in Ecclesiastes uses a lot of illustrations referring to marriage, it is also used to highlight the importance of standing together. George Washington famously quoted an old Greek saying during the signing of the constitution, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” – Romans 12:18
We are called to live in peace with one another. Both in and outside the Christian community.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40
I love how simple God’s message really is. In these 4 verse he literally sums up, well, everything. These verses are theologically loaded with depths of meaning; however, I will focus on the community aspects. We are called to love our neighbors and our fellows as Christ loved them. That is a pretty tall order. Would you die for your friends? For your family? What about that guy that cut you off in traffic or someone else that may have hurt you deeply? If we want to be a community that lives out the Gospel then we need to learn to love those around us as radically as God first loved us.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” – Ephesians 1:16
The words “give thanks” is the compound word ‘eucharisteo’ in the Greek. This means “an outpouring of grace and wonderful feelings that freely flow from the heart in response to someone or something” (Sparking Gems from the Greek). I think this shows in part what it would mean if we deeply believed what God has said about community and those people He places around us. Paul’s feelings burst forth whenever he thinks of the church in Ephesus! Shouldn’t we be the same way with our friends, families, churches, and communities? Do we dare to love those our communities in a radical life giving way that he calls us to?
Authentic community is simply one that is Christ-centered and focused. It is one that, due to its focus and Gospel centrality, the members build one another up rather than tear one another down, and support one another rather than stand alone. It is a community that demonstrates Christ’s love every day to those within and outside of the community, literally becoming Christ’s hands and feet to the world. While we may have different functions within the community, we are all part of a greater whole whose headship is Christ.