Tuesday, April 21, 2020
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
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. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But 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.
If you have seen the movie Castaway, then you probably know that it is a good corrective for those of us who tend to be introverted. The scene where Tom Hanks’ character performs a tooth extraction on himself with an ice skate will pretty much drive away any romantic notions about being all alone on an island.
Even on our worst days when we think, “If I could just get away from all the people life would be so much easier,” I suspect we know it is not true. Something in us testifies to the fact that we were not designed to be alone.
So how sad it is when Christians decide to live like spiritual castaways disconnected from the life of the body of Christ, the church. During our current crisis we may get a little too used to virtual worship services which allow us to stay in pajama pants and recline on the sofa. And we may even hop around from various virtual churches and find the one with the singer or guitarist or preacher that best conform to our preferences. It does not take much to imagine that many Christians may choose to apply the current isolation to church long after it has been lifted in all other areas of life.
Surely many will protest, “But I’m a Christian therefore I am a part of the universal church.” That is true. By our union with Christ we are bound together with the whole company of Christians around the world and throughout time. This mysterious communion of saints even extends to those who have gone before us to be with the Lord. That’s wonderful truth.
But think about our poor castaway out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Will his separation from all human contact, from helping hands, from friend’s voices and physical companionship; will that all disappear the moment he remembers that he belongs to the whole race of humanity throughout the world?
Of course not.
When I was in high school the movie Top Gun was a massive hit. The United States Navy saw in the popularity of the movie an opportunity. The Navy began setting up recruiting stations at theaters showing the movie. Guys would come out of the theater with romantic notions of flying jets, confronting Soviets, playing volley ball on the beach, and being tutored by experts who looked like Kelly McGillis. So they enlisted.
And then they showed up to basic training and found out that there’s actually discipline and training and leadership and expectations in the military. And not a single one of their instructors looks like Kelly McGillis.
It is easy to love the beauty and glory of the church universal while having contempt for the church local which, ironically is the church as we know her in our actual experience. So, to claim membership in the universal church without joining and giving your labors to a local congregation is to love an idea but despise a people.
What the castaway needs is contact. What he needs is a sort of belonging that brings him into literal contact with others. And the same is true for us as Christians. Our belonging to the world-wide company of Christians – the universal church – was never meant to be a substitute for our need to belong to a local fellowship of Christians.
And the church was never intended to function without any of its members.
As I write this, my wife is in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy. Thankfully, the appendix is not necessary for our lives. I have lived without an appendix since I was a sophomore in high school. I have never missed it. As far as I am aware there has never been a moment that would have been made better with my appendix. Fellow Christian, there is no appendix in the body of Christ. There are no unnecessary members in the church. And that means you.
Remember that even now during these days of physical separation the words written by the Apostle Paul are still true:
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (Vv. 17-20)