I’m not an armchair sportsman. I generally don’t like to watch sport on TV (especially golf…yawn!). There are however times when I am astounded by what the human body can do. Not my body, the finally tuned athletic body. Gymnasts, rock climbers, triathletes (not golfers).
It is with wonderful imagery that the apostle Paul describes the church as a body in 1 Corinthians 12 : Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many (vv12-14). Paul describes the church in terms of many parts making the one body. He is stressing the unity and the diversity of the local church - both of which we need and are to appreciate.
There is however a temptation for us as individuals as part of the body. There is always a temptation to feel useless when you perceive someone to be greater. It's the feeling, or the opinion, that if you're not like somebody else you admire, you are useless. It is the temptation to view yourself as not as valuable as other parts. Paul goes on to say: Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body (vv15-20).
Paul gives us three remedies in vv15-20 to the feelings of uselessness in ministry when we compare our gifting and place in the body with others.
Firstly, it is simply not true! In verse 16: if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. You may think it and you may feel it, but it is not true. Arguing yourself into a sense of uselessness in the body of Christ is invalid arguing. The conclusion does not stand. If you are a part of the body of Christ, you are not useless to the body. A rock climber wouldn’t go very far if their hands decided that they wanted to be the knee caps.
Secondly, the diversity of the ministry gifts actually serves unity in the church. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? If we were all ‘ears’ we would be dysfunctional.
The third remedy for feelings of uselessness is in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. God has ordained us to be the way we are, to have the gifting we possess, JUST AS HE WANTS IT TO BE. If we say we are useless, we not only say ‘no’ to the idea of the body, but worse, we say no to God. We don't trust him. To say that we are useless is to say that God is weak or mistaken or evil: he is not sovereign, not wise, or not good. Like all issues it comes down to a radically God-focused issue—do you trust God?
I recently had the joy of communicating to the church about a number of appointments recently made at St Paul’s. It has been particularly wonderful to see these, and many others, give of themselves to see God’s church built up at St Paul’s.
Even though I have a significant and prominent part in the St Paul’s body, I am very grateful for all the ‘noses’, ‘fingers’, ‘toes’ who trust God and serve the body, even though they may feel inadequate. Thank you for serving because I would not be complete, or able to function in my capacity as part of the body, for the body, without you. May our difference serve to create a unified and smoothly functioning body at St Paul’s.