The Church Body
“If the foot would 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 would 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. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
-1 Corinthians 12:15-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The human body is weird, y’all. We are driven by things in our body that we will never see. There is science behind it all that I won’t pretend to understand. Like our bodies are working on the inside to help us work in the world, the Holy Spirit is working in ways we cannot see to shape the community we have together here. The body of Christ is weird, too. If we dig a little deeper, we learn of even more connections between members of the body, reaching back to before we even knew of each other’s existence. That weirdness we see in the individual body comes through when we form communities.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written to a church divided into factions, comprised of people with different views and functions. The importance of the body is highlighted because the body is made of many different parts that don’t look the same. The parts have different functions, but each is vital to the survival of the body. When we come together as the church, we become the body of Christ. Each of us are members of it and each of us are the body.
Our bodies need to be cared for. Bodies need clean air, fresh water, green vegetables, and rest. They need to be known and touched and loved. Sometimes, though, we fail our bodies. We remove God from the body. In our overscheduled and overprogrammed lives, we force ourselves to choose between worshiping God, doing God’s work, and taking care of ourselves, God’s children. We too easily forget that each person is a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully crafted by the Creator and Sustainer of Life. We refuse to acknowledge that identity in ourselves and in other people. We justify our actions toward and treatment of other people, shaming the body for the choices we make. We forget each other’s names or fail to learn them in the first place. We forget the simple power of making eye contact. We are so afraid that the body will die that we forget to let it live.
The world mistreats our bodies. The world tells us what our body needs to look like, what it needs to wear, how it needs to act, and where it needs to be. The world kicks bodies out of public spaces because their skin isn’t the right shade. The world tells us that our body can’t travel to one place because it was born somewhere else. The world tells us whose bodies can receive healthcare and which bodies deserve fair wages. The world tells us who is worthy of being part of the body and it tries to break down everyone else.
But we’re talking about the body of Christ here. The body who was crucified by the government, but who rose from the dead. The body of Christ who formed the church of which we are part. The body that draws us in and pulls us toward each other. This body cannot be broken. That body is meant to be cared for. We need to be the body together because without each other, we could not survive.
The body of Christ, the church, is meant to be whole. We are meant to love each other and respect each other and push ourselves and each to do better and be better. We are called to be the body of Christ, operating in the world. We are called to be kind to the body and to call out those who are unkind to any member of it. We are called to be connected and to live into the weirdness together. We are called to be the church. May we learn to do so.