Written by Peter Blanch
Church is full of people who are deeply united in Christ but are at the same time very diverse. And when you give it some thought our diversity is enormous – we are made up of different ages, different genders, different nationalities, different skills and abilities, different likes and dislikes, different gifts from God – the list can go on; there are differences everywhere. Yet despite the differences, we are more deeply united than anything else on earth. In Christ we are brothers and sisters in the same family, united to each other for eternity. You cannot be more united than that!
As the apostle Paul seeks to help us understand how profound is our unity in the midst of diversity, he uses the image of the body to explain with clarity the reality of being in Christ with other christians.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12
The one human body is made up of all sorts of parts; head, fingers, arms, legs, eyes, ears, nose, mouth etc., yet it all goes together to make up just one body. Enormous diversity in parts but profound unity as one body. And that is exactly how it is with Christ and his body, the church.
There are many important implications of knowing this. Things such as: there are no second class christians. There is no “us and them” Christians. No matter what my gifts, no matter what my skills and abilities, no matter what my age, the same Spirit that made me trust Jesus as Lord is exactly the same Spirit that made you trust Jesus and together we form the one body of Christ. This means we can cope and even thrive in our differences as each different part of the body contributes to the full function of the body as a whole. Differences do not mean disunity.
Another important implication is the principle of the “common good”. God chooses to give different gifts to each of us – different skills and abilities to be used for his glory. These gifts are not to be used in a self-seeking way, but always with the common good of the body in mind.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7
Knowing this helps us to ask the right questions about our role in the body. Since gifts are given for the common good, the first question about gifts is not me-focused, as in “What are my gifts?”. The more crucial question is to ask; “What are the needs of the body? What do I need to do for the common good of the church family I’m united with?”. Ask those questions first and then get stuck in and do what is for the common good.
Sarah Downey [pictured above] in our church family has modelled this to us for a number of years with her involvement in youth group. Sarah was at our very first youth group meeting about 6 years ago. Back then Sarah was in year 11 at school. Although it might have been more fun to join a youth group with other friends her age, Sarah was aware that our fledging youth group of a handful of year 7 kids could really do with an older adolescent. And so she choose to be the only senior high school kid at youth group with a bunch of junior school kids. She could see that the common good for our tiny youth group was to have enough people at it to keep running as well as some older people to spur on the younger youth.
As Sarah then finished school and remained in Wagga to study at CSU she kept up the pattern of seeking the common good before her own, by staying involved in youth group as a leader. Youth group was at that stage still small and therefore perhaps an unimpressive ministry to be involved in, but Sarah saw that our church body needed her involvement and so she sought our common good even when as a young lady she had other options on how to spend her Friday nights.
Sadly for us, after Sarah’s involvement with our youth group from the very beginning, the time has now come for her to move on. Our loss is Echuca’s gain as Sarah moves to Victoria to take up a teaching position. We trust and pray that Sarah will find unity with fellow believers in a strong, bible-teaching church where she can continue to serve and grow so self-sacrificially.
The great news is this attitude displayed by Sarah is not isolated. Many among us seek first the common good of our church family and it’s a pleasure to witness. I thank God for Sarah and people like her who follow the path of Jesus, seeking the common good of the body even when it is inconvenient to themselves. May we all be spurred on to do the same!
..that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:25-27