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UNITY: ONE BODY IN CHRIST, ONE BODY IN ALL

 

“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. For by one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For, in fact, the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?”

Unity is the central theme of Paul’s address to the Corinthians. Unity in everything that God does, Unity in everything that God commands, and Unity in everything that belongs to God. Chapter 12 starts about the Unity of the gifts, then Paul moves to explain the Unity in the body of Christ. That part is our text of interest, for Paul explains the truth of Love in action and the truth of the church or God’s family.

In his address, Paul talks about the Unity in the community of believers. Yes, all who have believed in Christ are united in Him. How do we explain this Unity? Everyone is essential, and everyone has a role to play; no one is more important, and no one is less important. Paul chooses the human body as an example to explain his point. The human body here is the church and its members. Each part of the human body is a church/community member. Each has a role to play, and Paul is pressing on this point. No one can say that he is more important in a church, and no one can say that someone is not needed.

Moreover, no one can think that they don’t need the other members. We are all UNITED, and without this Unity, we cannot be part of the body. The head of the body is Christ, so if anyone is united with Christ, he is by definition joined with the other members of His body, the church members.

Unfortunately, many times in churches, we find this exact type of reasoning. We all claim to be united or one with Christ, but we deny Unity with other members because they are different! Just as the gifts are diverse, so are we, but we are all one. However, our reactions at times are not Christlike.  We deny their participation or integration. We see no need of them as we think ourselves sufficiently filled in Christ! This is anti-Christ thoughts, for Christ himself declares that we are all members of his body. In his wisdom, God grants each believer a spiritual gift for the need of the body! No one will have all gifts; we will all need each other to be complete in the blessings of God. This is done, in my opinion, to make sure we depend on each other and that we grant each other their place and importance in the body of Christ, the church. Paul is saying here that everyone in the community brings something that completes the community. What we have is not ours but for others. Here lies the beauty of God and how we all need one another.

The scriptures declare that it’s God who adds believers to HIS ecclesia. Those believers are those who believed in Christ and accepted to take the baptism and start following Christ. God adds to our church communities, not us, not our words or deeds. So, when God adds, he also is providing a gift to us. He adds to our community; those people are also loved and graced by God with spiritual gifts. These gifts may not be evident early on, but as they grow in Christ, we will start seeing the fruits, and once it is ripe, we will be benefiting from them. Until then, many times, they are eating from our fruits, if we are producing them. I also came to understand that God works our faith and gifts through our relationships with the newcomers. God gives us the ones who were once rejected to develop caring and Love so that the gift of caring and compassion can grow in us. God gifts us with so many people that these very gifts of the Spirit can be used so that the “gift of the Spirit” may have room to grow. But what do we do? We run out of patience, we put them aside, we cast them out because we lack what we ought to have. God adds, but we remove. God gives us the likes of Elizabeth (the possessed one), Zacchaeus (money lover), Bartimaeus (blindness), the beggar (poor in everything), Saul (murderer and proud), Lazar (dead), Naaman (sick) and so many others. He brings these people to us so that these very gifts might be displayed for the Glory and power of God. How can we miss it?

We lack patience, we run out of patience, we abandon them, we cast them out, we criticise them, we put them aside and hurt these very people who are called to be members of the body of Christ. We ought to be better stewards of the gifts we receive to serve others. They are given to us because the tasks are supernatural and cannot be done with human strengths. Humans’ reactions to problems are to cast them out, get rid of the problem. God’s response is to take them on and change them for his Glory. Who are we? What shall we do? Look around us, look in our community for the likes of Bartimaeus, Naaman, Elizabeth, Zacchaeus, Lazare, and do to them what Jesus did to them, what Jesus did to you.

We are Christians once we come to Christ. We become new creatures, and we lose our earthly birth as we are born again. It is fundamental that we understand this. Old things are passed; new things are here. This new beginning finds its strength in the Unity of everyone in Christ. Unity, dependence and the need of the other become our motto, as it’s what Love is about. Just as God gave us new hope, a new family, a new way of living, He expects us now to live by these kingdom values. This message from Paul about Unity cannot be limited only to the church communities. The Bible shows that it goes beyond church and deep into all aspects and layers of life.

Our family is the closest example of our church. In fact, our families are small “churches”, for a church is the word used to replace ecclesia, which is the gathering of believers. So, our houses become the body of Christ too. Now let’s take all of Paul’s teaching about gifts and members of the body and apply it to our families. How can the mother say he does not need the father? How can the child say he does not require the parents? How can the wife say she does not need the husband or vice-versa? How can married children come to the conclusion that they no longer need their old parents? This is not biblical as thought and indeed not founded and grounded in Love. We all have something to bring in the relationships. Please understand that God gives the gift as HE Wills! so we don’t get to choose but receive, accept and rejoice. Are we rejecting the very gift God assigned to us? Are we doing the same thing and finding that some members are not essential or of lesser importance? When we are arguing, separating, divorcing, belittling anyone in our household, it’s the same as what Paul says about the members of the Body of Christ. Is not your wife born again, is not your husband, a son of God? Is not your child from God? Are they not then of members of the body of Christ? I like to imagine each family as being the hand! A more minor member made up of several mini members! The hand is arguing that it does not need some of its fingers!

“No member should compare or contrast himself with any other member because each is different, and each is important. Each member needs the other members, and no member can afford to become independent. When a part of the human body becomes disconnected, you have a severe problem leading to sickness and even death. In a healthy human body, the various members cooperate and even compensate for each other when a crisis occurs. The instant any part of the body says to any other part, “I don’t need you!” it begins to weaken and die and create problems for the whole body.” (Diversity Sermon by Lou Nicholes, 1 Corinthians 12:12-2)

As I explained, Christian communities are made up of families! If we start by neglecting some families, the community will die off sooner or later. Similarly, once we start doing the same in the family, the dynamic of that family is negatively affected, and it will die. It’s the Unity and diversity that is the strength and beauty of God’s families. When we see families breaking down, we see the body of Christ losing members. It’s like the hand losing fingers or nails; it won’t be working as it should. It’s painful, it’s hurting, and it is incomplete. How can we conceive of breaking the body of Christ? Is not Love our foundation?

But we see in the Christian families so many divorces, rejection, hurt, and so many relationships breakdown. How can we no longer need each other? Are we not doing what Paul said? Are we not saying, “I don’t need you?” we must understand what the moment we are breaking out of our family, we are, in fact causing harm to the whole body of Christ. When we no longer wish to be part of the family anymore, we tell that we no longer need that body part. I had often reflected on Jesus’s words when he said that God never intended for Divorce, or “what God has united, no man can separate”. It’s because of the fact that we become part of the same body, crafted and made one flesh. How can we now not need our own body members? Paul gives the best explanation of what Love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, for we read:

“Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.”

It is the fulfilment of what Christ has done for us and what he expects us to do. It’s the fulfilment of the Unity of the body of Christ.

I also believe tath this kingdom value is relevant in our professional life. I think it’s for every segment and layer of our life. I think that the Christian understand that he must in every situation conduct himself and show that he understands the necessity of depending on the talents and diversity of everyone in the workplace. He is filled with spirit understanding that even the workplace becomes like the body of Christ in the sense that these people are also called to be part! So, he understands that the same recommendation of Paul applies here too! God rules our lives; it means even our workplaces are governed by God. He added or placed us there, and we have something to give and also to receive. We must implement and live by the kingdom’s values in the marketplace, and with the grace, help and will of God, craft these into the body of Christ.

What am I saying? Can we say we don’t need our boss, or we don’t need our colleague, or we don’t need our employees? Can we say we don’t need the cleaners, or that they are of least importance? Can we say that we hate or don’t like this one or this one? Do you think that these thoughts can come from sons and daughters of God in the marketplace?

Unfortunately, we do hear these. We have lost the reality of the constant presence of God, of His omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. We forget that in all and by all, it’s God sustenance. We need not be preaching and evangelising in the marketplace, but our actions, Love, integration, sharing, and empowering should be our kingdom character! Our preaching, our Christianity, should be more in our display than from our lips! Instead of showing kingdom values, we transform ourselves into selfish and self-seeking people in the marketplace. We don’t look for the good of everyone, of the body (here we see our work as the “body”); we seek the interest of the member-only.

We will not go far with these types of mindsets. I firmly believe that until and unless we start by understanding that we are Christians not by our words but by the works that come from our faith, we will not impact anyone. God is a God of unification, a God of community, a God of family and Unity. Everyone has a place, where everyone has importance, where everyone has something to give and receive, for there is only One God and One Spirit, and we are all called to be part of the ONE BODY of Christ, in all. Love keeps everything together. Without Love, as Paul describes it, its failure assured.

“Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

 

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