Let us pray: Dear Savior, as joint members of Your body here on earth, the Holy Christian Church, we all have gifts and the responsibility to use them. Today enable us to take an honest look at our lives, to recognize the various gifts You’ve given us, and to use them for the good of all. For then, everyone benefits—our fellow Christians, ourselves, and most of all: You. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!
TEXT: 1 Cor. 12: 12-21, 26-27
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Careful observation and thoughtful analysis, that’s what it takes to understand body language. I’ve learned to read it a bit in people, but humans are very good at hiding their true thoughts, aren’t they? I’m better at reading it in my dogs, but that’s probably because they aren’t quite so devious. Brian’s body language is easy to read. Everything is about him and his likes and dislikes. Since he’s the only one who likes to play toys, toy-time makes him quiver with excitement. He’s totally focused as throw toys get tossed and he retrieves them. It’s the highlight of his day. Meanwhile, Zoe is a bit more devious. She knows Brian’s toy-time is all-important to him. And although she usually has little interest in fetching, she likes to stand in the hallway and block his path! All this to show that her status as the older dog still reigns supreme! We like to say that: “Zoe’s not a team player!”
Are you a team player? Specifically, are you a team player when it comes to the church? After enumerating various spiritual gifts given to the corporate church—“gifts of: wisdom, knowledge, faith, inner healing, great powers, prophecy, administration, and the like”, St. Paul concludes by saying this about them in the verse preceding our text: “and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” In other words, all believers are given certain, specific Godly gifts to use to build up the whole body of Christ.
Here we see the team concept active. But in Corinth, as in every visible church today, human pride clouds the use of those gifts for the entire team. Many believers are individualists who: 1. Want to work independently and therefore often work counterproductively in the church. 2. Some try to acquire spiritual gifts that God never intended them to have. 3. Others look down on those with less dramatic gifts. And 4. Some feel inferior or even worthless because their gifts are less showy or contribute in a less apparent way than others. All of these attitudes don’t build up the team, but either fracture it, or simply hold it back. So, are you a “team player” or not? Well, let’s examine our lesson to see by focusing in on:
CHRISTIAN BODY LANGUAGE
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
Christ is the body. He’s the heart, soul, and brain of the Church. It’s all about Him. He created the Church. He did this by reconciling us to God with His death on the cross for our pridefulness. And through His love-payment for our selfishness, we’re eternally joined to Him and to each other through faith. Or as Paul says: “We were all given one Spirit to drink.”
Likewise, though we may be diverse, we can find true identity and unity only in Him. Think about this: every one of us has been eternally reborn through our baptism into Christ. Every one of us is linked to Him through Spirit-wrought faith. Recall when Paul describes the Church with these words: “One God, one faith, one baptism.” Yes, when we graciously are given faith, our “me-first” attitude gets put aside and the team concept begins to take precedence.
Just like any team, the members of the Christian Church all bring individual gifts and abilities to the body. These gifts are specific and have intended functions, too. “But in fact, God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” So, exactly what does that mean? Why does Paul use the analogy of the hand, foot, eye, ear, or nose and their interaction, or lack of it, to make his point? Well, they all point to the fact that in Christ’s body there is no room for criticism, envy, feelings of inferiority, or uselessness. Yes, we always need to be honest with each other. But as players on Christ’s team, we need to do so by: “speaking the truth in love.” Likewise, envy over another’s Godly gifts means you’re so focused on what you don’t have that you forget what you do possess in terms of gifts and then fail to use them. Thus, no one benefits from you, including Christ! Sometimes believers think their gifts are lesser or inferior to another. Or, conversely, that their gifts are superior to another. If such thoughts have ever crossed your mind, then think back on Jesus washing His disciples’ feet! He chose to be a servant to all. Nothing was beneath Him. Isn’t such honesty and humility an integral part of our faith? At other times, believers think they are spinning their wheels with their gift and it isn’t being used. To them, Scripture says: “Patience is a virtue.” Perhaps the time for such a gift hasn’t yet come, but it will since God gave it to you and put you here for a reason.
The Corinthian congregation was wracked by discord and disharmony. Everyone wanted to go their own way and do their own thing. Chaos ensued. God was not honored. And no one was truly “built up.” Paul’s point here is this: we have a vested interest in each other. We’re eternally joined together in Christ. Therefore the logical loving conclusion to that point is that we care about each other. If one member is in pain, we all suffer with them. If one member is honored, we’re all honored with them. Jesus shared in our pain. It took Him to a cross. And now since He is resurrected and honored before all creation for His sacrifice in our place, we, too, share in that honor. So it must be among all Christians, members of His eternal team!
On various occasions I have to vocally remind Brian and Zoe of their team status. If they don’t cooperate it disrupts everyone’s life. When it comes to people, Ben Franklin said the same thing at the start of the Revolutionary War. “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” As Christians, each of us is vital to the whole. The Body of Christ is no place for individualists who want to go off and exercise their ego. But by hanging together, listening carefully to each other, doing what’s right for each other, or exercising our gifts to their fullest, everyone flourishes and is honored. Most importantly, Christ is honored! Thus, Paul’s conclusion: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Does your Christian Body Language do just that? May God make it so! Amen