Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Caring for the Body

I am struggling to get a practical grasp on a passage that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. The passage is found 1 Corinthians 12. It is there that he talks about the church as a body. He says everyone in the body of Christ is needed so the church may work together in a productive and coordinated way as we bring glory to Christ in this world. I understand that part. I don't always do a good job at it, but I understand it.

I'm having a hard time in verses 22-26. Here's what they say...
22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

I'm working on those phrases that I underlined. That is very contrary to the way an organization works in the world. For the most part, in the corporate world, if an employee is slowing down the company or hurting the image...they are let go. As for the church, though, Paul is saying just the opposite. The folks that are struggling should receive greater attention than the ones that are average or above.

I asked someone yesterday that does not attend Smiths Grove Baptist Church, "What does that look like in your church?" This is a very real issue that we need to get right. Paul has people in mind here, not just parts of a body that make up a nice analogy.

How many times have I given someone a smile as passed on Sunday, but in my mind I wasn't really valuing them. I was pitying them, but I wasn't interested in showing them "greater honor" and I certainly did not believe they were "indispensable".

Who are those people in your church that you would put on a list of being dispensable? Are they the weak? Are they the aged? Are they the physically handicapped or disabled? Are they people who have falled into public sin? Who? Who? Who?
If they are truly part of the body, we are called to cover them in love and "greater modesty". I hope you think about this the next time you take your seat in the place you gather to worship with fellow church members or pass some of these unsightly people in the hall. I wonder if you'll go out of your way to speak to them and get to know them? I wonder if I will?

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, we all rejoice together.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brandon,

I appreciate your comments and concern. I would guess that this is a problem in all churches that are comprised of humans. Some probably more noticably than others. I think we are all naturally social climbers and asscociating with the lowly as commanded in scriptures does not fit with that natural tendency.

I have recently left a church where the senior pastor (a very youthful senior pastor) told a struggling (lowly) lady that he does not do well with 'icky' people. While I appreciate his honesty, I can't help but wonder why he would call himself a disciple and minister of Christ if he doesn't do well with 'icky' people. Maybe he said this in the context that it was something that needed changed in his life and ministry, but the fact is that his particular church seemed to hold that attitude as their unspoken motto. If one takes seriously enough Jesus' teachings on humility and servanthood he has to be very sensitive to those (and we must not neglect to examine ourselves) who exalt themselves over the less pretty or less wealthy or otherwise less desireable. Christ spent much of his time ministering to the 'icky' and rebuking those who had it made socially. I know there is nothing wrong with being pretty or wealthy or socially desireable but those attributes had better be accompanied by a ferverent love for the downtrodden in our society.

John said...

Brandon,

I appreciate your blog. Any chance that you'll be setting up an RSS feed in the future?

Tim Challies said...

"I appreciate your blog. Any chance that you'll be setting up an RSS feed in the future?"

Try http://covenantlifetoday.blogspot.com/atom.xml. I believe all Blogger blogs have an RSS feed. Just add /atom.xml to the end of the address

SWilson said...

Brandon,
I couldn't admit any less struggle in the practical areas that you describe, but I'm not sure the struggle is related to this text specifically.

Consider 1st ...
Your comparison of the church to the corporate world is accurate, but I'm not sure applicable to this text. You write: 'if an employee is slowing down ... they are let go' Then add: 'As for the church ... the folks that are struggling should receive the greater attention...'

While I agree completely with that contrast --- I don't think Paul's reference in 1 Cor 12:22-26 concerning "weaker", "less honorable", "unpresentable" equates with "struggling", "aged", "handicapped", or "struggling with sin".

2nd -- what does Paul mean?
If we follow his concern, he begins (1 Cor 12:15-18) by making certain the church understands that every person's gifts are necessary. The 'evidence'(ie public)of the gift is not necessarily related to the necessity of the gift. Yet still there are 'evident-public' gifts. Given that, there is no reason for someone to sit in a corner and bemoan their gift as compared to anothers. First --- YOUR GIFT IS IMPORTANT, EVERY GIFT IS IMPORTANT - no room for INFERIORITY!

Add to that, there is no room for SUPERIORITY! (1 Cor 12:20-21).

3rd --- the imagery of the body.
When Paul then turns his attention to an apt illustration (the body - 1 Cor 22-25) he is not illustrating true "weakness", but rather "assumed weakness" (inferiority / superiority). Notice, he says, your own body. The members which "seem to be weaker" - - what is he talking about? Not the hands, they are strong, they are self-sufficient. They don't depend on protection from the rest of the body. He is talking instead about the internal organs. Those parts of the body that depend on protection from the rest of the body. Imagine your heart attached to the outside of your chest --- you wouldn't last long. The heart is WEAK in that sense. It is DEPENDENT. But it is not truly weak, in fact, as Paul suggests, IT IS NECESSARY - VITALLY NECESSARY.

He goes on to the next group --- the parts we deem "less honorable". Scholars have suggested here those parts of our body that we cover up. We find our faces presentable. Our hands, our feet the same. But we cover up our torsos and our midsection. There is a measure of protection in that, but more, there is a measure of modesty in that. Yet we would not suggest them to be "less honorable" in a true sense. Just not out front! Just not SEEN.

Finally --- our "less presentable" members --- the word is "uncomely", or "indecent". These parts of the body are not only covered, but guarded. Yet who of us would count them "less"?

Paul's summary --- 1 Cor 12:24:
Our "more presentable" members have no need of special attention, special covering, or special protection. Their guard? DON'T BE CONCEITED. DON'T FEEL SUPERIOR.

The others, those that "lacked", God has designed our bodies that they would receive "more abundant honor" --- more protection, more cover, more guard. DON'T FEEL INFERIOR. YOUR ARE MOST NECESSARY.

In then end --- this illustrates the same lesson our Lord taught:
Luke 9:48 - "...for he that is least among you, the same shall be great." And Mark 10:44 - "...whosoever of you would be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all."

MacArthur writes: "There are some of us who are eyes and ears and mouths and noses ... we are the comely parts ... but God equalizes our honor because the less conspicuous members are the more essential to life. Nobody can see internal organs, so we usually think of people in terms of outward beauty, but that isn't what makes them what they are. The same is true in the church. God wants all the honor equalized."

Thanks for your ministry, Brandon, from a fellow pastor of 12 years in Warren County, Kentucky - Grace Community Church of Bowling Green.

Didn't want to diminish your wrestling with the very practical questions you raise concerning the truly weak (elderly, handicapped, sin struggling) - I don't offer here any helps there -, but thought this understanding of the text might be helpful. The practical application of its truth, I think, demands a constant check on both fronts in a local fellowship. My public ministry can't exist without those who push the buttons and turn on the lights, and all the rest. In the end, Paul challenges us to see them, and them to see themselves, as truly great!

In Him Humbly,

Steve