August 18, 2014

Unity and diversity = the Body of Christ

God has a way of weaving together what I’m studying in seminary and what I’m reading in daily devotions. The topic this week includes a review of biblical metaphors used to describe the church. Today’s reading is about one of them.

The key verse for this devotional series describes the church as a household and a building with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. However, the New Testament also uses the image of a body with Christ the head and Christians as His Body. This one is my favorite metaphors, perhaps because it so clearly illustrates the unity and diversity of God’s people.

1 Corinthians 12:12–14, 24-27 say, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many . . . God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Comparing this to my own body, I easily understand how God wants us to care for each others. If my foot hurts, the rest of my body pays attention. If someone compliments even my haircut, the rest of my body feels good, even stands a little taller.

But this is not about me, but about those gathered in the name of Christ to make up the church. God tells us to not think too highly of ourselves, but “with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

Then He reminds us that we are also different, particularly in the way we think and are motivated to serve Him. This is called our “spiritual gifts” which differ according to the grace given to us. We are told to use those differences to serve God and others. If our gift is this, then use it like this: “If prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:3–8)

In my study of spiritual gifts, God has helped me more deeply understand what makes people think and act in certain ways, and why individuals focus on different areas of Christian ministry and service. This is valuable in that I also better understand myself. Because of my spiritual gifts, I’m an insatiable information gatherer that also thinks in black and white terms.

Beyond the individual, the Body of Christ is under the leadership and direction of Jesus Christ. God “raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:16–23)

Jesus is the Head of the church “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” (Colossians 2:16–19) As each part of the body relies on impulses and signals from our brain, each person in the Body of Christ is led by the Head of the Body. While we sometimes get our signals crossed, or we become stubborn about doing what we are told, this metaphor describes how the church can be unified (one Body under one Head) yet diverse, for we are not all hands, feet, ears or elbows. We have work to do, but in varying capacities and from varying motivations, yet all to obey and glorify our Savior.

Lord, as I obediently function according to Your direction, I know that my relationship with other Christians will express the wonderful diversity and yet unity of who You are. Thank you for making me part of Your Body and gifting me to serve You.

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