Unity, Diversity, and the Body of Christ

One of the beautiful aspects of being connected with believers as members in the body of Christ is the celebration of our diversity.  When we love well, our differences become causes for celebration, not barriers to inclusion.  This is one of the unique features of the church.  The church is not a social club where membership depends on a shared trait or interest.  We are not an affinity group.  We are a body.  Listen to Paul’s description of the church in I Corinthians chapter 12.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body is not one member but many” (I Cor 12:12-14).

“If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (I Cor 12:15-18).

“If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it” (I Cor 12:19-24).

But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (I Cor 12:24-27).

It is incredible to me how, after almost 2000 years of human history have transpired, this passage could have been written to today’s church.  Maybe that is because it was written to today’s church.  Themes like celebrating our diversity at the same time as practicing our unity, God forming the individual parts of the body as He desired, the danger of declaring “I have no need of you”, jealousy mixed with inferiority as to our part in the body, each suffering when one in the body suffers, and each celebrating when one is honored all have application to our contemporary church; application that we will explore next time.