Wednesday, November 12, 2014
1Cor. 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Paul was trying to help the church in Corinth understand the implications of being the “body.” The interconnectedness of the individuals within the body of Christ needed to be understood as the community together served to reflect the Triune God. The pain inflicted on one part of the body would be felt by all. John Chrysostom in the 4th century explained, “When a thorn enters the heel, the whole body feels it, and is concerned: the back bends, the belly and thighs contract themselves, the hands come forward and draw out the thorn, the head stoops, and the eyes regard the affected member with intense gaze.” In other words, when pain enters the community of faith, the entire community of faith feels the shocks in one way or another. The whole system is jolted.
At the same time there is that moment of honor for the community. Chrysostom goes on to say, “When the head is crowned, the whole man feels honored, the mouth expresses, and the eyes look, gladness.” Again, this honor is not just placed upon a singular individual but upon the entire community and together there is celebration.
These descriptors provide us with a distinct understanding of the corporate nature of living the life of faith. We are created to live in community and as members of the body of Christ we are drawn into the recognition that we suffer with those who suffer and we rejoice with those who rejoice. If our sensory receptors are not receiving impulses from those around us, we are not living in the body the way God intended.
This is a very challenging scripture to God’s followers for implied is a very intentional relationship with others within the body. For far too long we have made our religious or spiritual lives about ourselves and the ways in which we personally engage the scriptures, our prayer life, the Lord and even our worship. Instead of looking to the interests of others, we worry about whether my personal needs are being met. It is important that our personal spiritual needs are being met because when we are lacking spiritually, then the entire community will be lacking spiritually. However, if we do not see ourselves as contributors to community life, and only consumers, we have a problem.
I was recently heard of a church where people had left because the church wasn’t meeting their needs and specifically, one family member was suffering. Sadly, this family had been at the core of some of the ministries of the church and when they left a large gaping wound could be found in the church community. This shows the interconnectedness of this community. There are a couple of questions to be asked here — what could the community have done to help a family with a felt need. There was a thorn in their heel and it needed to be pulled out. It probably wasn’t pulled out and it became infected and was festering. As that area became more painful — it became almost unbearable and finally a solution had to be found. The foot needed treatment and so the foot left. The problem is that the body is left without a foot and now they find themselves limping along and wondering if they will be able to survive.
Unless we recognize the interconnectedness within the body of Christ we will be unresponsive to the needs around us. The problems in the youth department are the problems of the Senior Adults — because we are part of one body. The type of worship music we have does matter because if one part of the body is miserable, then we all suffer together.
The spiritual journey of a community of faith is one that leads toward wellness. The goal is a healthy body and that means that we must respond to the symptoms that come along. I’m afraid that our individualistic attitudes have made us immune to the pain and suffering that parts of the body may be encountering. Gangrene is setting in as we refuse to treat the problems. We must listen to the voices that are crying out and take them seriously. Just encouraging the foot to leave is not a solution, but it is one we have practiced and the result is a crippled body of Christ, limping along in the world and wondering why we aren’t making a difference.
Lord, please, help me be sensitive to the entire body. Amen.