Unity and Diversity.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. – 1 Corinthians 12:24-26 NLT
Paul had heard about divisions and disunity taking place in the local congregation in Corinth. They had taken sides within the church, with some claiming to be followers of Paul, while others claimed Apollos as their spiritual leader. They had even been bragging about who had baptized them, claiming some kind of spiritual superiority as a result. Then there were those in the church whose disputes with one another had resulted in law suits in the secular courts. On top of all that, Paul had to deal with a spirit of division that had crept into the church as some were claiming their right to live in their new found freedom in Christ, but who were causing their fellow believers to stumble and fall into sin. There had crept into the church an attitude of selfishness and self-centeredness that was doing serious damage to the cause of Christ and the health of the body of Christ. What seemed to be missing was any concern for the common good. Everyone was in it for what he or she could get out of it. Personal rights had trumped any concern for the corporate well being of the body. So Paul provided them with a metaphor that he hoped would help them understand the unique nature of their role as members of the body of Christ – the church.
Because the church is a collection of individuals, it is easy for us to bring our individualistic mindsets with us and never fully understand what it is that God has in mind for this unique institution He has ordained. Becoming part of the church is not like joining a country club or a fraternity. There is something spiritual going on behind the scenes when an individual is called by God into a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. That act of salvation places the individual into an entirely new situation, making him a Son of God and a brother to every other individual who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. He becomes a member of the family of God. But even more so, He becomes a member of the body of Christ. To make His point, Paul compares the body of Christ, the church, with the human body. His emphasis seems to be on diversity, first and foremost. Unity is a byproduct of that diversity. In other words, in the human body, God has divinely designed each and every part with a purpose in mind. Each part is necessary and must work in conjunction with every other part. Some parts are seemingly more important – like the brain or the heart. Yet God has brought every part together and given it its own function and role to play. Some of those parts go unseen, working behind the scenes, but playing an essential part in the overall well being of the body. Each part is necessary. There is not competition or jealousy within the human body. One part does not envy another part. There is no pride or arrogance within the human body. Because God has crafted each part and placed it right where he wants it, to perform the role for which He created it. The same is true of the body of Christ. God has called every believer and placed them within the body of Christ, the church, and provided them with a spiritual gift that is designed for the good of the body. Paul had made it clear to the Corinthians: “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. he alone decides which gift each person should have” (1 Corinthians 12:11 NLT).
The body of Christ is a divinely ordained and designed organism filled with a variety of individuals who represent and a diversity of gifts. Paul lists some of these as apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, leaders, and even those who speak in other languages. Not everyone has the same gift. What would a church look like that was made up of only teachers? Diversity is a necessity. Every gift is needed. Every individual is important. But the goal is always for the common good. The motivation is always love. Paul is going to drive this point home in the very next section of his letter. Because even the spiritual gifts can lead to disunity if they are done without love. If our overall objective is not to express selfless, sacrificial love to others, then even our spiritual gifts can become destructive rather than constructive. They can divide rather than unite. We must recognize that God has divinely organized the church, placing each individual where they belong and gifting them in such a way that they play a vital, non-negotiable role in the overall health of the body of Christ.
Father, the church can be a messy place. There are so many people who have come from so many walks of life. They bring their personalities and all their baggage to the equation. Then there is our tendency to compete and jockey for positions of prominence and importance. Help us to understand that there are no spectators in the body of Christ. Each person has a role to play. Each is necessary and needed. You have designed the church to be a well-ordered organism where all the parts work seamlessly and effortlessly together. But all that is impossible without love. Show us how to be more than an organization. Give us a growing awareness and understanding of just how unique this thing called the church really is. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men