“Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)
In a recent poll, 81 percent of Americans agreed that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious belief independent of any church or synagogue.” In fact, one respondent named Sheila stated, “I can’t remember the last time I went to church. But my faith in myself has carried me a long way. It’s ‘Sheila-ism.’ Just my own little voice.”
Individualism and autonomy are two characteristics cherished by most Americans and numerous cultures around the world. We pride ourselves on being independent and self-sufficient. But is this how our loving Father wants us to live out our faith? Does Jesus Christ want us to “go it on our own” or to belong to a community of believers?
Perhaps we can learn a lesson from one of God’s most amazing creations.
Towering along California’s northern coastline are the largest living things on earth—the majestic redwood trees. These mighty monarchs pierce the sky at heights of 300 feet and boast a circumference of more than 40 feet. The Grizzly Giant tree—the largest of the sequoias—is more than 2,500 years old. One would think that trees this large and ancient must have massive root systems that plunge hundreds of feet into the earth. However, a redwood’s roots are actually quite shallow, lying barely below the soil. The secret to the sequoias’ strength is that these majestic trees grow only in groves so each tree’s roots can intertwine with the roots of the trees near it. When the strong winds blow, they hold each other up!
In a similar way, our wonderful God created us to need others. He did not intend for us to live in isolation, and He does not want us to live out our Christian faith alone.
Just as the cross has a vertical and a horizontal piece, our identity in Christ has both a vertical and a horizontal aspect. As believers, we are related to God, but, like the mighty redwoods, we are also connected to each other. In 1 Corinthians 12:27, Paul explains, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.”
As members of the body of Christ, our identity has three dimensions:
- Each of us is distinctive. We have a unique and significant role to play in the body of Christ.
- Each of us is dependent. We need and are needed by the other members.
- Each of us must be directed. We must work together under orderly leadership for the good of the whole.
Christ’s purpose for His body is to mature us as believers and to reach the world through us. We cannot accomplish these objectives alone. Only by working together in community can we be Christ’s body—His hands and feet—ministering to the world He loves.
The Scriptures explain our role in the church this way:
“We will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church. Under His direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15,16).
Each believer has a vital part to play in Christ’s body. The Bible explains, “In fact, some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:22).
In March 1981, President Reagan was shot. We all recognize how important the president of our country is, especially in times of war or economic crisis. Yet while he was hospitalized for several weeks, the government went on. That event probably had no impact on your daily life.
However, several years later, the garbage collectors in Philadelphia went on strike. The city was a mess! Trash piled up until the rotting garbage became a health hazard. Philadelphians felt the impact of the garbage collectors’ absence.
The president is highly esteemed and vitally important, yet even he is dependent on his garbage collector!
In a similar way, the roles in the family of God that are less visible are vitally needed to support the more visible work of pastors, teachers, and evangelists. Think back to the human body. We rarely pay any attention to our kidneys or liver, but if they malfunction, our skin and hair will show it and our whole body will eventually suffer. Instead of envying those with the most visible positions, we must faithfully develop and use the gifts we have to fulfill the unique purpose God has for each one of us.
God gave each of us gifts for a purpose. We must use our abilities and resources, or we will miss out on the blessings of service to our Master.
If our goal is God’s glory, we will delight in the ministry He has given us. And we will work together in unity.
By Bill Bright
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