Many of you will be aware that in order to help newer people settle in to our church family we run a course called “Start Up” over a number of weeks. During “Start Up” we take the time to look into the five “M” areas that shape the purpose and direction of our church life together – Magnification, Membership, Maturity, Ministry and Mission.
During one recent “Start Up” meeting we covered the area of Membership [To see people connected into our church community and nurtured pastorally so that the Body of Christ is built up]. We talked about the reality of all believers being in the one family of God. A question was asked: “What things can happen within our church family that might undermine our unity in Christ?”
Quite a number of things were rightly mentioned: such as gossip, an unwillingness to overlook minor differences, being overly critical, thinking the worst of each other – these are things we touched on recently in the sermon on Ephesians 4.
However, during “Start Up” the ones we focused in on were those the Apostle Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 12. In speaking about our unity as the Body of Christ the apostle Paul warns us:
1 Corinthians 12:14-16
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 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 cease to be part of the body.
The essence of the warning here is be aware that you can undermine the unity of the body by despising your own place in the body. Telling yourself you don’t belong does not stop you from belonging. An insecure hand with low self-esteem does not stop the hand from being part of the body. Feeling like you are just a belly button in the body of Christ or just an armpit is beside the point. The apostle Paul drives this point home to us by getting us to use our imagination. He says:
1 Corinthians 12:17
17 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?
Paul wants us to imagine for a moment that the whole body was one big eyeball. If the body was just made up of one part like that what would the body be like? You’d have big problems because you’d be missing out on every other part of the body. If you have ever talked to a person who has lost a hand or an eye or has even a little finger or toe, they will tell you that as far as their body is concerned, it is deeply sad that bits are missing. If the body consisted of just one part we would all suffer.
Imagine if our church body consisted of 100 Peter Blanchs. What a nightmare that would be! Apart from finding someone to talk to after our Sunday service, who would play the piano for us? Who would know how to set up and run the PA gear? Who would provide morning tea? Who would do all sorts of stuff that I can’t do?
This image makes it clear that everybody is vital in the body. We at WWEC are a body, and a body cannot function if it is only one part. This means we need each other. Do realise that our church suffers without you? Don’t tell yourself “because I don’t have up-front gifts, I’m unnecessary”. Don’t tell yourself “because no one seems to need me I am unnecessary.” We must repent of such talk and take our place in the body. We all need you, we all need each other. Do not despise your place in the body, it can deeply undermine our unity together.
This same thing can easily happen if you begin to feel that you are spiritually inferior to others. It is usually brought on by somebody else—somebody who seems to be spiritually superior. They may not think of themselves as superior but our perception of them has deeply affected us. If you ever feel this way, you must always remember the wonderful freedom we live by in the grace of God. We have nothing to boast in except God. We do not look to ourselves, or others, to find our true significance. Rather we look to God who has kindly given us all things in Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus we have been given “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). There is nothing that any Christian should feel spiritually inferior about.