Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 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.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
Some of you may know that I’ve been having problems with my back that makes it very uncomfortable to sit for any length of time. In working with my doctor and physiotherapist (Canadian to American translation = physical therapist) to determine what is causing the constant sensation that I’ve hit my tailbone, what they’ve come up with is that my right hip is out of alignment. Apparently, after I broke my ankle two years ago I never did start walking properly on my right foot again. My hip and leg didn’t stop compensating for when the ankle was injured and the foot and ankle just got used to not carrying their proper load. Now, I’m doing physical therapy and acupuncture twice a week and daily exercises to retrain my foot and leg and hip to work as they are designed and not only does my back hurt but so do my foot and ankle and leg. My physiotherapist assures me it won’t all hurt forever, that eventually the movement and weight bearing of walking will be set to rights and all will be well.
I’m pretty sure I could just stop right here and y’all would get the point … but since you’re here and I’ve still got coffee to finish, let’s proceed. Our physical bodies are amazingly designed. The “parts” are so connected in their movements and functions that it’s almost difficult to designate them as “parts”. When all is functioning properly, we don’t even have to think about our basic movements of sitting, standing, walking or running. When we are injured, one part can compensate for another while healing takes place. When we get a shoulder or back massage, the rest of our body relaxes and is refreshed at the same time. As the Body of Christ, we are designed no differently.
Each member of the Body has a particular purpose but those purposes can’t be fulfilled without the rest of the Body. A foot, by itself can’t walk, it needs an ankle and leg and hip, my fingers, if disconnected from my hand, couldn’t type these words, they need my hands and wrists and arms and shoulders … and on and on. The passage above comes in the middle of a discussion of spiritual gifts and if you look at what Paul mentions here as well as in Romans, they are gifts that can’t be lived into without others. What good are wisdom and knowledge if we don’t impart them to others for the benefit of the whole body? We can’t heal if there is no one else around. Teachers can only be a teacher to another, giving only works if there is someone to give to, mercy and serving and helping all require another. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that some are given the gifts to be apostles, prophets, preachers, pastors and teachers to enable others to use their gifts. We are given gifts for the benefit of others and these gifts are part of what binds us together as Christians. We are to be so intricately connected that we function best together. And like the physical body, when one is injured and hurting, the others can bear extra loads for a time and help with the healing process. When one rejoices we all rejoice, when one is injured we all hurt.
Gracious God, thank you for the gifts of our physical bodies and for our spiritual gifts that enable us to participate with you in the care of all of your children and creation, through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.