Once I went to a conference where the worship emphasis was on all Christians as members of Christ’s body. This was illustrated by giving each attendee a beautiful ribbon—red, or green, or blue, or yellow, all the colors of the rainbow. We were invited at some point in the conference to bring our ribbons to a frame and weave them into what became, by the end of the conference, a multicolored tapestry. The point: Each of us has something to contribute to the whole Body of Christ and together we make up a beautiful tapestry.
All during that week something nagged at me but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I just knew that there was something wrong with the ribbons illustration. Then I re-read 1 Corinthians 12 and I saw what it was. Each of our ribbons was beautiful alone. Together they were more beautiful, but each could stand alone and be used as a decoration, a bookmark, a hair bow, all sorts of things.
It’s not that way with body parts. Separated from the body, an ear is not beautiful; an arm is not lovely. Separated from the body, the parts are grotesque---the stuff of bad horror movies. In fact, separated from the body, an ear is not really even an ear; it’s just a piece of meat. Ears hear. If a piece of meat does not hear, it isn’t an ear.
I minister in a tradition that defines the local church as a group of like-minded believers. That’s very Baptist. But it’s not biblical. You can leave a group and both you and the group you left are still perfectly functional. If your mind doesn’t like the minds of the believers in your old group, you can just go and join a group of more like-minded believers. It happens all the time. If that were really the nature of the church, I can think of many people I would like to vote off my like-minded island.
But Paul says the church is a body. He says that if one member suffers, all suffer together. He says that if I get spiritually sick (through anger, or resentment, or unforgiveness) then I make the whole body sick, WHETHER THEY KNOW IT OR NOT.
Worse than that, he says that I actually NEED all those annoying body parts that look funny and don’t smell good for MY spiritual wholeness. I can’t be me unless they are being themselves and the church can’t be whole without all of us and each of us. The most exasperating person in the church is the person that I can’t afford to be cut off from without great loss of blood and immense pain.
I like the pretty ribbons better. But that’s not God’s way.