A role in the body

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. 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.” (NLT)

I love this passage of Scripture but probably not for the reason you might think. So many times we’ve heard preachers focus on this passage by lifting up the diversity of the Body of Christ, and that’s great. I agree with it and I’ve preached it myself. We do need each other and we do need the gifts that every one of us brings to minister to this broken world as a unified Body. We can’t all be preachers. We can’t all be evangelists. We can’t all be prophets or Sunday school teachers or ushers or youth group leaders or Delanco camp counselors. But there is a role in the Body for every one of us.

Actually my favorite part of this passage begins with verse 22 and runs through verse 26 (I’ve bolded it above). Most folks seem to take this as a reference to covering our nakedness. But there is no question in my mind that Paul had a more profound meaning here. When Paul refers to parts of the Body of Christ with “less dignity” and parts that are “less honorable,” I cannot help but think he is talking about the people that many of us don’t see or don’t want to see.

Isn’t Paul talking about the homeless, the poor, the oppressed, the drug addicts, the alcoholics and all of the disenfranchised people of the world here? And if he is speaking about those people, he’s not telling us that our ministry is only to them; he’s telling us that our ministry as a unified Body of Christ in this broken world is with them. We aren’t just to reach out of our blessing and offer help. We are to reach out in partnership and seek help from those who we are helping. Genuine Christian ministry isn’t just about helping others, it’s about partnering with people, neighborhoods and communities. Paul is calling us through this passage to honor the less honorable and to offer chances for those with less dignity to regain dignity.

So the next time you’re serving in a soup kitchen, or out on a mission trip, or just being a good Christian in action, look for ways to involve the people that you’ve been called to serve. Even if it’s just being a friend to someone that needs one. It’s not just a good thing to do, it’s the right thing to do too.

Prayer: Lord of love and light, help me to be in partnership with those in need and not just minister to them. Help me to see their value as you do. AMEN

Rev. Don Stevens is a graduate of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a United Methodist pastor for the last ten years. He has had the honor of serving as a Delanco camp evangelist on two separate occasions. Image credit: Tyler Spencer, via CreationSwap

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