“The body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).
As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, it seems that some of their members, far from consciously affirming the diversity in their midst, were working against it.
One group in the church was suggesting everyone should be just like them—have the same ministry, the same social status, the same convictions about idol-food, the same favorite preacher. Others, who felt inferior, were allowing themselves to drift into inactivity by embracing the lie that they were not useful to the church.
Into this unhealthy atmosphere, Paul speaks, addressing both groups with a single metaphor. The church, Paul says, is like the human body: many parts are working together to make the one body function properly.
Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ is one body with many members.
If You Feel Useless
First, Paul uses this analogy to address those who felt to be less gifted or belonging to the church body. Here Paul uses the metaphor of a body to great effect, with this comical question: What if the foot said, “Because I’m not the hand, I must not belong in the body”?
Every member of the Body, Paul reminds us, has an important function. It takes many different members with many different roles to make the body function properly. Envy, insecurity, and feelings of inferiority are nothing new, but this is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons every church needs to hear in our day.
In an age of Photoshopped magazine covers, and competitive little leagues, and luxury cars, and Pinterest, and pop stars, and mega churches—we are extremely susceptible to the message that we are never beautiful enough, or athletic enough, or wealthy enough, or creative enough, or talented enough, or hip enough. But this is not how God sees us at all.
Did you know that God is not more impressed by a Swedish supermodel than by a pimple-faced, socially awkward teenage girl? That God does not consider a nuclear physicist to be more precious than a child with Down’s Syndrome? That God does not value a strong young church member over a seasoned one, who is in the Alzheimer’s ward? That God does not relate better to the middle-class American than he does to the hungry, uneducated citizen of a third world country? That God is not more pleased with the successful big-city preacher than He is with the unknown oversees evangelist who has yet to see his first convert? God is the One who sovereignly dispenses the gifts of physical beauty, mental intelligence, financial success, and even visible fruit from gospel labors!
This is not to say God does not honor faithfulness, hard work, personal sacrifice, genuine meekness, and other marks of spiritual stewardship on our part. In fact, that seems to have been part of the problem at Corinth, with some members shutting down merely because they didn’t have the same gift as others. But the God who gives to us a vast spectrum of looks, and IQs, and talents, and personalities does so because He values all of them and sees beauty in all of them.
How important this message is for every local church to embrace, and for the Body of Christ across the globe to keep in mind! There are many members in the one body of the church. Also, there are many gifts, but one body. While there are multiple ethnicities, a variety of ministries, and people of differing ages, there is still one body. Lastly, while there are many convictions on secondary issues, including a variety educational levels, and personality types, there is still one body.
If You Feel Indispensable
Paul then turns to the other side of this diversity issue: not people who feel as though they don’t belong, but the people who consider themselves to be the standard of usefulness.
As we read between the lines of this letter, it seems apparent that some members of the church at Corinth were exalting their gifts above those of others. Apparently certain Corinthians were suggesting some spiritual gifts were “weaker” and “less honorable” (12:22-24). To the contrary, Paul insists, those members of the Body who may seem more inadequate, or whom we think are less worthy of notice, God says are necessary! Every member is essential for the body to accomplish what Jesus wants it to.
Those church members who can’t make it to church anymore because of physical frailty, or who tithe the least, or who have a rough background, or who are newest to the faith—every one of them is precious, and essential to the health of the whole Body. Don’t forget about them, don’t scorn them, don’t avoid them, and don’t underestimate their importance in the church.
Remember that it is God who has fit the Body together according to His purposes. God is the composer of this symphony. God is the artist painting this portrait. God is the architect of this building, and God is the coach putting this team together.
God is the Creator. It is He who has made us, and we are His. God is the One who fashions each body—and each member of the Body—according to His supreme wisdom and design. The arrangement of the Body of Christ is Christ’s arrangement! The Body of Christ, just like our physical bodies, is fearfully and wonderfully made in each part of it. We are created according to God’s will in the first place and are re-created into the Body of Christ for His good purpose as well.