A few days ago (back in November of 2015) Betty and I traveled to St. Louis to welcome our newest granddaughter, Evelyn Elizabeth, and visit with Mike, Ali, Mackenzie, and Megan. It’s interesting to see the difference between the two older girls as they grow into who they are and wonder what Evelyn will be like.
Our next facet of the diamond of who we are in Christ is part of the body. Paul uses the metaphor of a body and its various parts in several of his letters. While he thoroughly explores what he means in 1 Corinthians 12 he also summarized it in Ephesians which reads, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16, NASB95) In the same way that a sheep is part of a larger flock, followers of Jesus are also individual parts of a larger whole. But where sheep are mostly the same this idea of being individually unique parts of a larger body embraces our differences.
For the sake of space, I won’t reprint Paul’s exploration of the body and its parts found in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 but I do encourage you to read it.
The Corinthian church was diseased with divisions. Paul addressed this early in the letter, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10, NASB95) The church of Corinth may have felt like a sports bar on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of football season as each member sported the colors of their favorite teacher. Paul told them to cut it out and was even embarrassed by it.
Later in the letter, Paul picks up the idea again when he talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, their diversity of function and their overall purpose. Perhaps seeing or fearing another source of a division he emphasizes that even with all of the variety of gifts there should be a unity that is growing towards love. That same thought is echoed in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 where Paul also talks about various God-given gifts and abilities, emphasizing that they are to function within humble unity.
The main word in all of this is “function.” God has granted various gifts, talents, abilities, likes, dislikes, and passions to you and I as He saw fit. No one does everything. On my own, I can only take the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given me so far. To actually function, it takes many other parts; many other people also using their gifts, talents, abilities, likes, dislikes, and passions. Think of it this way. I’m the rudder of an airplane (not really but go with me for a moment), my function is to point the plane in different directions. But I can’t turn or even get off the ground by myself. I need all of the other parts, engines, propellers, fuel, wings, ailerons to bank with, and elevators to move up and down with. Put all of these things together and we can soar to wherever Jesus our pilot directs.
We need each other. No one is useless, no one is greater than or lesser than, the local church and the greater church only functions in the way Christ intends when we all do what God has given to us. Oh, and there is no pew-sitting spectator role in Christ’s body. As John Wimber put it, “we all get to play.”
If you don’t know what your function is yet that’s ok. Try things, find what fits. Be willing to stretch and grow into things that you’ve never even imagined or only dreamed of. You see, God does not just plop something on your lap fully formed and ready to go. He allows us to grow into all He has given us as we grow up into Christ. With growth there is change, expect it. We must also give room for others to grow and change. We like to get things figured out and harden into that mold, but following Jesus is not like that. Things should never harden into place, we must stay fluid and agile, able to flow with whatever direction the Holy Spirit is moving right now, at this moment, in this season, or in this era. But again, all of this happens in an atmosphere of humble unity and building up one another in love.
Whether you’ve found your function or not you are a valuable and necessary part of Christ’s body. But that only works, only provides joy, when you are connected with the rest of the body. As someone reminded me recently, what happens when one part of the body is separated from the remainder of the body? What happens when a finger off of a hand? It dies.
When we shine the light of Jesus on this facet of the diamond of who we are in Christ what do we see? The first thing we see is great diversity, God makes each one of us unique in our own way. That diversity however only finds meaning and purpose when joined with the rest of the body of Christ. We also see that God intends each of us to function, to be useful, to “play” as we continue to grow up in Christ. We are individuals that only shine and sparkle when lovingly connected with a local church and the greater church, that’s the way God made us and His kingdom. So let’s go, we’re all in this together.