|Posted on August 20, 2019 at 12:35 AM|
It takes a variety of members to make a body of Christ. Paul makes this point in his letter to the Corinthian church in which he seeks to correct their thinking about the members of the church (1 Corinthians 12). Like all organizations there are members we naturally consider being more important than others. They may seem to be smarter, more spiritual, funnier, or even more functional than others. These more popular members are given more honor and respect than the less important or popular ones. Such judgments naturally lead to the false conclusion that we would be better off with out them.
But remember, the church is not just another organization! As the body of Christ, it is a living organism so our natural ways of thinking about it are not adequate. God has set each of the members in the church according to his own plan, even those members we would naturally think we could do without. Only when we can learn to appreciate and celebrate the differences among our members can we really understand the church as the body of Christ.
Paul first emphasizes the fact that we are all different, but necessary. An overgrown ear, for instance, is not a body any more than an overgrown hand would be. It takes a variety of members to make a body. Likewise, none of the members can do without any of the others regardless of how unimportant they may appear to be. The common notion that only a select few members are needed for the body to function is absurd. Paul tells us that all the members are vital to the function of the body, even those we might not want to put on public display. Obviously our “private parts” are just as necessary to the overall functioning of the body as the members of our face.
A failure to recognize this important point has seriously hindered the work of the church over the years. In the case of the Corinthian church, they were seeking to honor some members while choosing to ignore others. The ones honored and respected were those who had natural abilities valued by the other members. They may have had more money or influence in their society or were able to “prove” themselves more “worthy” compared to others. Many were able to demonstrate their particular “spiritual gift” more than others and were able to impress the others by their religious performance. Whatever the case may have been, it was not healthy as far as Paul was concerned and prompted him to rebuke them strongly.
The last verse in chapter 12 spells out the problem. Literally Paul says, “You are earnestly coveting the best gifts…” meaning that the Corinthians were competing among themselves for what they considered to be the “best” gifts. The use of the word “covet” signifies a self-centered attitude of religious “one-up-man ship” in which each member was trying to make themselves look good at the expense of the others. Such religious game-playing completely hinders their ability to love one another like Christ and leads to competition rather than cooperation. Seeking to make themselves worthy by religious performance, the Corinthians missed the whole point of the gospel (God had already made them worthy by the performance of Christ) resulting in their fighting with one another rather than loving one another.
Faith in the gospel allows us to not only see our own worth as members of the body of Christ, but also see the worth of the other members as well. Rather than waste time and effort to compete with others and make ourselves look good; we can practice what Paul calls the “more excellent way” of loving others like Christ. In contrast to “earnestly coveting the best gifts” we are free to love others believing that God has already made us worthy in Christ. It is that love for one another that supplies what is needed to hold the body together and cause it to function as it should in this world.