We live in a world that promotes individualism…so much so that some sociologists say that we are living in a time of “rugged individualism” – you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you…and we’ll all be the better. The message of community has been lost in many respects…even in the church. This is something that we need to continue to battle, because we are a community. In fact, what we do in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, is called – communion…and communion, community and communication all have the same root. In Romans 12:3-8, Paul is seeking to give a message of encouragement to a church that has been struggling some with community.
The Jewish and Gentile Christians there are having some difficulties working together, and Paul is seeking to give them some guidance. He wants to help them…and us…understand that each person is an important part of the body…the church, even though the body is made up of individuals. And everyone works together for the good of the whole. If we belong to each other, we are to minister to each other. Paul tells them, and us, to examine ourselves…take a good look in the spiritual mirror…to determine if our attitudes are more selfish or if we are becoming more Christ-like. It is important for believers to perform spiritual self-examinations on a regular basis…but, it is necessary to do this in all honesty and humility. It does us little good to merely glance in the spiritual mirror, instead, it is necessary that we take a good look. We need to be all that we can be for the Lord to the benefit of our own spiritual growth, and the growth of the body…the church.
And so, this principle is particularly relevant in relationship to our spiritual gifts or talents. It is important that we do not overrate or under-value the unique gifts that the Lord has given to us. Some of these talents may come naturally, while others we may develop…all are God-given -- and He doesn’t make mistakes! In turn, we can help others find their talents, whether this is teaching, helping, serving, encouraging, giving, and the like. It is the Lord’s desire for the body that His people be equipped to serve (Ephesians 4:11-13). In the church at Rome, as well as at Corinth, it seems that some are comparing their talents to those of others -- the greatest reason that they are overrating or undervaluing themselves. As with the church in Corinth, Paul uses the illustration of the human body to describe the multiple functions of the spiritual body, the church. Though these believers have the appropriate gifts, they lack the Spirit…particularly the fruit of the Spirit of love. Love is the life-blood that keeps the body alive. If there is no love, then there is no life.
The temptation is for us, as individuals, is to think…”if only these members were like me, the church would be a better place.” If only everyone was an “eye,” so to speak. The eye is not better or worse than the big toe, elbow or mouth. Each member of the body is important and serves its purpose…so it is with the body of Christ. The idea is that, even though there are many parts to the body, there is still only one body -- this is the unity. This should offset the danger of individualistic thinking that permeates our culture. As we, Christians, fellowship together in one body, any self-centered thinking should be cast out – we should be looking out for the best interests of others in the body, rather than ourselves. Once again, there are three truths – the unity of the body…all work together, the diversity of the members with diverse talents…all are different, and mutuality…each belongs to all the others. The beauty of unity in diversity is that this should help us in our appreciation of one another…we should not be fearful. By faith, this is the way that God made us…and it is okay! We may be black…white, young…old, a newer Christian…a more experienced Christian, progressive…conservative, and whatever other distinction that we could determine, and it is all good! This is the way God made the body!The more that we are able to respect this, the more that the body is able to grow!
This is all a good and challenging proposition in many respects. We learn a number of things that are very significant for our spiritual health and well-being. Those who might think that they can choose whether or not that they can belong to the Body are gravely mistaken if they think that it is a matter of choice. We really can’t decide whether we are going to be involved, or not. Either we are, or we are not, part of the Body. This whole message implies and indicates connection and communion. There is no “choice” -- it is not a decision…it is an imperative. In other words, we are purchased with blood, and are made a part of the body when we are converted to Christ. We, as the body, are connected to the Head. The greater the Body’s capacity to be open to the leading of the Head, the greater the capacity for opportunity and growth. Some bodies do not grow, because they are not or have quit being connected to the Head. There can be no severing of ourselves, for as gruesome as it is to consider from a physical standpoint, it is even worse in a spiritual sense. Those not connected to the Body are not connected to the Head. This may not be a message that some want to hear, but it is a spiritual reality. This is all with due respect to the principle…that where two or three are gathered in my name…I am there with them. If there is commitment and connection, there is community.
As we begin to consider the life and activity of the body, the church…this is all very significant. We need to consider these principles, especially as it relates to the beginning of our small groups and other activities. I don’t think anyone can say -- I am not going to be involved in these things…in the fellowship of the saints -- and not expect that there isn’t going to be a negative spiritual effect. As has been mentioned, being “transformed” to be like Christ also involves fully, and personally, realizing our connection to the Body. This does away with any selfish individualism – no one should think or feel that the church is about “me”…what I want. It is not about “you” or “me”, it is about “us!” Any decisions that we make or are made with regard to the whole, are decisions made concerning “us”, and these need to be respected…this is critical in order for the Body to continue to grow in unity. Like the 3 Musketeers, we are to be all for one and one for all. We are to experience unity, even though we are diverse. We respect the diversity that we have…we are all different and it is okay – we don’t have to think alike, act alike, be alike. We all belong to each other…we can’t say – I don’t need this certain member to be a part of the body, because this is not the way it works. We are all connected…and the life blood that flows and holds us together is love! If the church continues to cultivate an atmosphere of love, warmth and acceptance, building relationships, finding our talents and using them, building up one another…then there will continue to be spiritual growth and prosperity, individually and collectively!