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All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
How is Christ present in the world today? How can you and I represent him in our daily lives? Our text from 1 Corinthians 12 answers these questions by use of an incarnational analogy.
First-century Corinthian culture prized spiritual experience and personal accomplishment. Thus it encouraged both preoccupation with one’s religious prowess and prideful boasting. This cultural tide inundated the Christian community in Corinth, leading some to boast so much of their spiritual achievements that they denigrated the worth of their less-accomplished brothers and sisters in Christ. These folk, in turn, began to doubt their value to the community because their experiences of the Spirit were less dramatic than those of their boastful siblings.
The apostle Paul, who had planted the Corinthian church, realized that his young flock needed more than an exhortation to value each other. They needed to see themselves in a whole new light as the community of God. In order to foster this fresh vision, Paul used the analogy of the human body in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Just as the physical body has diverse parts, and just as all parts are essential for the body to function well, so it is with the Christian community. “All of you together are Christ’s body,” Paul wrote, “and each of you is a part of it” (12:27). Therefore every member matters to the body, and every member has the responsibility of caring for every other member. Nobody is inconsequential. Nobody is dispensable. Everybody matters if the church, as the body of Christ, is to be healthy, strong, and growing.
The church of Jesus Christ needs the message of 1 Corinthians 12-14 just as much today as the Corinthians needed it in the first century A.D. We tend to overvalue the contributions of a few members of the church, usually the pastors and other visible leaders, and devalue the contributions of ordinary folk. How often have you heard or even said, “I’m just a lay person,” as if lay people mattered less than clergy. The church in our day needs to hear once again the good news that we are the body of Christ, and therefore every member has inestimable value. (Photo: The congregation of Irvine Presbyterian Church on my last day as their pastor. During my sixteen years there, we grew as a community in which all members were ministers.)
Living Christmasly means living in this world incarnationally as the body of Christ. It means actively participating in the church and joining with this community to bear witness, in word and deed, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On this New Year’s Day, I can think of no better resolution than for us to renew our commitment to live fully as a member of Christ’s body, the church.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Do you live as an active, connected part of the body of Christ? What helps you to know that you have a crucial role in the Christian community? Are there specific ways God is calling you to strengthen your relationship with the body of Christ?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for making us part of your body in this world. You have joined us to the church so that we might receive care, grow in our discipleship, and contribute to the growth of others. Though church life is sometimes not easy, thank you for all the ways you minister to us through our fellow Christians.
O Lord, help your church to take seriously the value of each member to the whole body. Even as we honor those who are set apart as ordained ministers, may we remember that we are all your ministers, and that all of us have a role to play in your church.
Strengthen us individually and corporately, so that we might serve you, not only in our fellowship together, but also as we go out into the world. May we be your body for others, even as you once communicated your grace through the literal body of Jesus. Amen.
Today’s post is one of the Daily Reflections that I write for The High Calling of Our Daily Work (www.thehighcalling.org), a wonderful website about work and God. You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace.