1 Corinthians 12:14-26
There's a well-known saying which says that "variety is the spice of life." When we read Paul's description of the Church, the body of Christ, the body of Christ, in 1 Corinthians 12, we discover that there is a fullness of Christ, which can never be adequately expressed in the life of one individual. In the Church, there is variety - "varieties of gifts, varieties of service, varieties of working" (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). if we are to experience the fullness of Christ, we need one another. we need to worship with each other. we need to pray with each other. we need to pray for each other. we need to study God's Word together. We need to serve the Lord together.
Paul emphasizes the importance of togetherness in the Church of Christ. he does this by comparing the Church with the human body. The body has different parts - the "foot", the "hand", the "ear", the "eye" (1 Corinthians 12:15-16). Each one is only a part. We only have a body when all the different parts are brought together in the one body. We cannot enjoy the fullness of Christ unless we share in fellowship with others. To go it alone - keeping yourself to yourself - is not the way of fullness. it is the way of deprivation. by going it alone, you deprive yourself of the blessings of fellowship. By keeping yourself to yourself, you deprive others of your fellowship. we need one another, if we are to experience the fullness of Christ in our lives, the fullness of Christ in His Church.
There is no room in the Christian life for spiritual pride. Paul makes this point clearly when he imagines the different parts of the human body having a conversation with each other: "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'." (1 Corinthians 12:21). If we, in the Christian Church, are to live in the fullness of Christ, one believer cannot say to another, "I have no need of you." Paul underlines this point by stressing that "the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Iin his book, "The Strong and the Weak", Paul Tournier says this about "the strong and the weak" - "In reality, the facts are more complex: we are all weak towards some and strong towards others."
Tournier illustrates this in an interesting way: "A man who at the office is constantly humiliated by an unjust superior may take his revenge at home by bullying his wife and children. And the superior is perhaps avenging himself in the office for the tyranny exercised over him by his wife at home" (pp. 18 ff.; also included in A Tournier Companion, p. 158).
In the Church of Christ, there is no room for either the superiority complex or the inferiority complex. The love of Christ excludes both a feeling of superiority and a feeling of inferiority.
Christ loves everyone of us. Nobody has the right to say to someone else, "I don't need you." The moment you are tempted to feel 'superior', remember Christ loves the person sitting next to you no less than He loves you. Christ loves everyone of us. Nobody has the right to opt with the excuse, "You don't need me." The moment you are tempted to feel "inferior", remember Christ loves you every bit as much as He loves the people sitting next to you. To every single one of us, God says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
If we are to experience the fullness of Christ, there must be a real sense of togetherness in the Church of Christ, a real caring for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25). This caring is described for us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:26 - "if one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honoured, all rejoice together." If this togetherness is to grow stronger, there must be an ever-deepening appreciation of Christ's love - His love for me, his love for you, His love for all of us.
During the 1970s, I came across a book with the title, I'm OK - You're OK. This book emphasized the importance of feeling good about yourself and feeling good about other people (I'm OK - You're OK). It pointed out that the "I'm OK - You're OK" attitude can be lost in three different ways: (i) I'm OK - You're not OK - feeling good about yourself, but not feeling good about others); (ii) You're OK - I'm not OK - feeling good about others, but not feeling good about yourself; (iii) I'm not OK - You're not OK - Despair.
Let's think about this in the light of Christ's love - His love for me, His love for you, His love for all of us. Let's translate the words, "I'm OK - You're OK" into the language of Christian faith and Christian experience.
Christ has loved me. Christ has loved you.
Christ has forgiven me. Christ has forgiven you.
Christ has accepted me. Christ has accepted you.
If Christ loves us, what right have I to doubt His love? If Christ loves all of us, what right have I to rejoice in His love, while refusing to show His love to you? If we are to enjoy the fullness of Christ's blessing, we must see ourselves in the light of His love, and we must learn to love others with His love.
As we learn to see ourselves and others in the light of Christ's love, we will be, more truly and more fully, the Church, a company of those who accept one another as Christ has accepted us, a fellowship of those who love one another as Christ has loved us.
May the Lord keep us faithful. May the Lord give us this testimony: "From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16).