Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weakness in the Body

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16)

What causes the body to grow? The whole body working, each part working properly. If you lay in bed all day long and eat Cheetos, but work out your left arm with a barbell, are you going to have a healthy body? Not at all. You are going to have a sore and overexercised arm, probably with muscle damage from doing all the lifting without support, and the rest of the body is going to get flabby and weak. That is true with the church as well. The Body is healthy and growing when each part is working (and working properly).

Is that what we see today when the church gathers? The whole body working together? Or do we see a few parts doing all of the work and the rest atrophying from disuse? Or just as bad we see people in the church working in ways that they are not equipped for or not called or even permitted to do.

When we see the metaphor of the church as a body, what stands out?

1 Cor 10: 17 speaks of our unity as many who are one body.

1 Cor 12: 12-25 speaks of the body as being made of many parts or members and how vital and unique each part is.

Romans 12: 4-8 has Paul exhorting us that although we have different functions and talents, the whole body works together.

Col 1:18 tells us that this body, the church of Christ, has Christ Himself as the head.

Hebrews 13: 3 reminds us that as parts of the same body, the suffering of one part impacts us all.

What stands out to me is the wholeness, the interdependence that the Body of Christ has for one another. Each part knitted together by sinews working in concert with the rest of the body. Not all parts are designed for the same functions but all functions are necessary.

The problem is that we have too many appendixes. Huh? Think about it. What does the appendix do in the body? No one is really sure. It may have a function that we don't know about but generally it just sits there until it gets inflamed and causes a problem. The body of Christ is like a body full of appendixes. Too many parts that don't do anything and no one seems to know (or care) what they should be doing. A couple of body parts do most of the work and the rest just sit there in a puddle.

My point here is not to wag a finger at the Body and tell them they are lazy. In fact just the opposite is true. Those who are carrying the load, getting frustrated and burned out, need to encourage others to service. Not by veiled accusations of laziness but in equipping them for ministry within the Body. A Christian who is spiritually immature and unprofitable for ministry is not going to become profitable and mature by passively sitting around listening and watching a few others do the heavy lifting. Those doing the heavy lifting need to relinquish control. Often we see hands trying to walk because they don't trust and encourage the legs to do it. A few parts consolidate all of the responsibility and authority to themselves and the rest of the body lets them do it. The end result is a Body that doesn't work together, is ineffective and ultimately unprofitable.

That might mean people making mistakes. That might mean that gatherings get messy sometimes, things may not run on schedule all the time. People may get frustrated and discouraged and need encouragement. That is OK! 1 Cor 14:40 does not mean we need a rigid schedule, choreography and liturgy. It might mean that people need to step aside and let others serve even if they don't always agree with how they serve. It might not be the neat and tidy Christianity that we know and are comfortable with, but I think that in the long term the Body of Christ will be far more healthy for all involved if the members are all working properly.

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