Week 2: Connect With Others
Day 1: What We Are To Each Other – The Church As Christ’s Body
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
A lot of people say they don’t like “organized religion,” but I doubt they like disorganized religion either. What I think they really mean is that they don’t like public religion. They like their faith good and individualistic. They see faith as more like golf than basketball: it’s not a team sport. They think that faith is supposed to be both individual and individualistic.
While I’m not against golf per se, we need to ask ourselves if real, biblical, Jesus-defined faith is that individualistic. Is real spirituality the process of God providing us with goods and services that we desire on our own individual terms? The great church reformer Martin Luther once flatly called individualistic spirituality a sham. He said, “Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”
This is all very plain once we clearly understand what Christianity is and is not. Christianity is not a kind of enlightenment. If it were enlightenment, or something that could be pursued individually, then solitary religion or voluntary community might make perfect sense. But God didn’t design it this way. Instead, God has tied the working principle of faith to the fiery activity of love toward himself and all people. Love is by definition social, not individual. When we recognize this, we can’t help but gather, and the moment we gather in his name, a primitive church is formed. This meaning of “church” built on the working principle of love is Christian spirituality’s enlightening idea.
When understood so plainly, “gathered” or even “organized” religion is a badge of honor for the Christian, because the organization is our natural and necessary avenue for living out the love of Christ. We hate the problems in churches the same as everyone else does. However, these problems accompany the inclusion of people, and the problem of the Church is also its reason for existing. Seeking a church without problems would be like organizing a hospital where diseases and injuries are just the sort of thing not admitted. The key to a true church is that faith and truth cause the sanity to overcome the sickness. But the devilry of bad religion is always lurking just outside the immediate light of the well-employed saints.
This brings us to the first of two metaphors for the identity of the Church. We are taught in the Bible to think of the Church as a body. This is not a passing idea; it comes up explicitly eight times in the New Testament. This image of us as a body is more than a passing metaphor. The apostle Paul pushes it quite a long way. We are told not only that we are different (as are different body parts), but that these differences are intentional and of equal value. We are also told that “Its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27). This claim makes the very idea of a consumer organization or a private faith impossible. A body just doesn’t allow for that kind of independence. How does one ensure his privacy and independence when he is caring for, suffering with and rejoicing over his fellow body parts? How can he abandon one he is connected to as though by nerves, tendons and flesh? How can we abandon someone we’re connected to by the Spirit of Christ?
It’s impossible, just as one cannot stub his big toe in the middle of the night and not elicit a reaction from the rest of his body. The very idea is preposterous, since humans are intricately connected with a system of nerves that binds our body parts together in shared sensation. It should seem equally unnatural to us to think of a Christian being disconnected from the rest of the body of Christ. Our connection to each other isn’t a voluntary addition to our connection with Christ; it is a necessary feature of that identity.
For the modern person, this is one of the utterly strange components of authentic Christianity. It is a little like walking into a mall and finding that it is really a monastery, and then, in the strangest circumstances, finding out that the monastery is much more exciting than a mall. It is the realization that wholesomeness is really more satisfying than hullabaloo. It’s like a child who realizes that the thing better than his old toy is not another bigger and more exceptional toy to play with on his sterile carpet, but rather an ordinary dog and a great deal of common mud.
Every Christian must eventually embrace this realization, and the sooner the better. It is one of the forgotten keys both to our holiness and to our happiness. We must see the Church as a stroke of divine genius before we can see the worldly wisdom in all its foolishness. And only when our identity is safely in the bridal body can we tell our bodies what they may not attempt to buy: A nice privatized and individualistic religion.
This is the great freedom of being bound to each other. When we become impressed by the very nature of the Church, then we will finally be free from the need for it to impress us.
There’s more where that came from…
Blueprint starts at High Point Church on September 14! Come for the sermon on “Week 1: Connect with God” at 9am or 10:45am and stay after to get a famous pulled pork potato smothered in cheese at the Annual BBQ.