reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

1 Corinthians 12 - the second bit

posted by Little Mo | Permalink |

Main Point: Jesus is one, so as his body we all belong together in different parts doing different things, so don’t feel superior or inferior

How the church shows Jesus - "I'm in the middle of a chain reaction"

No matter how much we might wish it to be different, we are not all good at the same things. Temperamentally we all deal with that fact of life in different ways.

Those of us here who look at how we are different from others, and spend our time wishing we could be like them. Thinking, because I can’t do what they can do, I’m rubbish. Maybe feel like that at Relay conferences.

Then there are those with slightly bigger egos. We look at people who good at different things that us, and we think, well I’m really glad I am good at this and not at what they do. In fact, secretly, I’m not really sure what people like that add to the mix at all to be honest.

Hope what we have done already in 1 Corinthians has showed you that in the local church that will never be the case. It is never the case that either I am not needed, or that someone else isn’t needed. God hasn’t short changed anybody, nor has he specially privileged others because there are many gifts all given by the same Spirit. God loves the variety of the local church in gifting so that they can be one in creed. God through his one Spirit gives many gifts so the one message can be proclaimed and shown.

And so Paul in a very pastorally wise manner deals with those two issues diversity is likely to raise in turn – inferiority and superiority. But this section begins with an assertion, and it’s a rather surprising assertion. Paul’s been saying, all of the gifts are given by the Spirit as he wills. Verse 12 begins for, or because, just as the body (the human body) is one and has many members, and all the members of the body are part of one body so it is with - expect him to say the church, wouldn’t you? But he doesn’t, so it is with Christ.

Quite a remarkable thing isn’t it – but this thing about all the members of the body, the local church, working together doing different things, it is important because Christ himself considers the church so highly that it is himself – we are as Christians, in Christ, all of us one in him, and so it is desperately important that the church shows that. In some sense, we are him. We are all one in Christ because we, as Paul has already said have been baptised by the Holy Spirit, whoever we are, wherever are from into one body, a body that Christ hold so highly and so dearly that he includes it in his very self.

So I have called this talk “how the church shows Jesus” – because it seems to me that this idea that we are all the body of Christ, and therefore we must be one is central to it.

And bodies, Paul points out in verse 14, do not consist of one member but many.

All sorts of different bits of bodies, but none of them make any sense without the others, and so it is with the church, the body of Christ.

And using that picture, Paul addresses both sets of people, in the Corinthian church – people who felt like they couldn’t do what someone else could do, and people who thought they could do without everyone else.

The Inferior: “It doesn’t really make any difference”

Look at v 15 – the foot feels bad that they are not a hand. Hands are so cool, they have opposable thumbs, so much more useful than silly old feet which smell, and grow mould, and look slightly strange. Or an ear saying, I am fed up with being waxy and being taped to the side of the head for playing rugby, eyes are so much better than me, I musn’t properly belong.

V pastorally aware, not so much wanting to be the other part of the body, but saying I don’t properly belong because I am not this part of the body. There is difference here, I should be with people like me, not people who aren’t like me.

I am not needed because I am not like them. Totally out world’s culture’s and sinful nature’s reaction to a situation – where people are not like me, that means I don’t fit in. I should be surrounded by people like me. Way world works – fill my life with people I am comfortable with – people like me.

In the Christian worldview, that is not the case, certainly with church. I should not choose a church, or frame my feelings about church simply on the gauge of how many people there are like me. No, we saw in first part of chapter 12, everyone is different, it is that way on purpose – it’s because we are different that we do belong.

Paul says, well that may well be true, but you’re still a part of the body. Doesn’t really matter how you feel about it, you are part of the body. No ego massaging for you really if you feel inferior so say you don’t belong – whether you like it or not, you do.

After all, how would the body function if it were just one big eye?

Body wouldn’t actually work if it was just one body part.

God, according to verse 18, has arranged the members of the body just as he wants them, as he chose. It’s not up to the parts of the body to say, I don’t really belong here because I’m not like that part. No, it’s not your job, the body wouldn’t work otherwise, and God has arranged it as it needs to be arranged for it to work.

You may feel like you aren’t really part of the body because you aren’t the same as someone else, but it doesn’t really make any difference what you feel about it – you are part of the body and God has made you this way and placed you where you are for a reason. Not a Christian response to the church to say I am different from everyone here, not as good as them, therefore I don’t belong.

You know, I was talking last week with a team leader about doing these passages at Relay, and after registering the initial controversial shock, he said, I actually think that is a brilliant bit of the Bible to do with UCCF people. In fact, it’s probably something that we should all look at all of the time.

Why? Because much as UCCF is a brilliant ministry, strategic and important it, and its CUs are not churches. But often they become a place where people who feel like they don’t fit in to the local church think – well I can have ministry here, it doesn’t matter so much about my church commitment. I feel like a bit of a foot, and everyone is a hand. In UCCF everyone is a hand, I’d fit in much better there.

That’s not a good enough response. The fact is, that if you are a part of the body, the church, no matter how much you don’t feel at home in it, and God doesn’t expect you to say, oh I’ll find a place where everyone is more like me. He expects you to say, it’s great that everyone here is different from me: it’s the great work of the Spirit that has brought variety to the church, it would be totally useless if the whole church is like me, and God has me here for a sovereign reason.

Using CU and UCCF that way? Maybe – well it’s got to stop now, the body needs you – God is sovereign, and has a job for you in the church, and the glorious truth is – you aren’t the same as everyone else there, that’s the point. As Paul says, as it is, there are many parts but one body. If you have been using CU and UCCF to run from that, because everyone is more like you here – well, time to stop.

So person, who thinks they are inferior, well it really doesn’t make any difference, you are a part of the body no matter what you feel like, and God has arranged to have you there, and that’s his choice. Paul sort of say – erm..suck it up.

The Superior: you have forgotten the Gospel

How did I get that out of verses 21 to 26? I’ll tell you in a second.

Look down at the issue read vs 21.

This time we have a body part thinking that they don’t need another body part. And it’s part you might think were more important, are more visibly important, saying to the weaker part, I don’t need you.

Now, I think while a lot of us may, temperamentally lean towards feeling inferior, and like we don’t belong in the church, I do think leaving Relay this is the real risk for us.

We’ve had some pretty good training, you guys have worked alongside some of the most gifted and godly people I know in Christian work, and there are loads and loads of people in churches around the country and around the world that just haven’t had that privilege. People who know less, have had less opportunity than you guys to discover and hone their gifts, just less gifted.

And Paul is addressing those types of differences in church life: people who are eyes and hands, people who heads and feet, people that seem to be weaker, and seem to be less honourable, less flashy or outstanding.

For people like us, there will be loads of people in church life who seem weaker. In a spiritual sense, perhaps they don’t have the priorities of evangelism and discipleship that we have been so clearly taught. Maybe they are weak emotionally, and find it hard to do anything visible in church life. Maybe they are old and their public ministry is more or less over, maybe they can’t even get to church. Maybe just less gifted.

I think Paul is very careful here, because he does say seem weaker, sometimes those who seem weak are often the strongest

Addressing those who may feel others weaker than them, especially with regard to gifts.

In most churches you might go to, apart from a few large well resourced places, having done something like Relay you’ll be viewed as strong, and a lot of you are very strong, and, as I have said, very gifted, but guard yourself against ever beginning to think about those who seem weak, I don’t need you.

Why? Paul uses quite an amusing metaphor here: genitals. I think that’s what he is getting at: those bits seem pretty sort of embarrassing and unmentionable but actually they are pretty darn important, and in fact, we show we think that by taking, erm…special care of them.

Hardly believe he uses that image – but Paul makes it clear, God has composed the body with parts that seem weak so that they can be honoured and cared for.

The point of having weak and seemingly embarrassing bits is so that they can be cared for – so that all the members can look after each other.

Surprising answer – we think – no the weak do useful things too!

Weakness, is good, we need it, so the weak can be cared for.

The Christian community that God wants to create through the Spirit could not exist without those that seem weak, God has composed the body in this way so that we can care for each other. The point is so that the body can be a body, suffering together as a body and rejoicing together as a body: for that we need the weak and the strong.

If you ever find yourself doing a Corinth, and saying look at me I’m strong, don’t you wish you were like me, missing the point, that we are those who seem weak and those who seem strong together on purpose, so that there can be care for one another.

The thing is, as Paul has been showing the Corinthian Christians this truth about the Gospel all the way through the letter.


You see what Paul is saying, the point of the Gospel is that God chooses the weak to shame the strong, so the last thing you need in the church is an environment where you say no, I’m strong, you are weak I don’t need you here, than in itself is totally counter to the truth we base our life on – Gospel is about the one who is strong helping those who acknowledge we are weak – the community that creates should not model the opposite of that.

God has put the body together to model that great truth of the Gospel that we need each other, in the words of John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, we go together like ramalamama a dingidy ding de dong.

Sometimes when driving, think if everyone was as good as me it would be ok – but I must never begin to think like that in church.

True in any Christian relationship – hope you have been that way, not thought, you should have been more like me, staff worker, me and Roz. Lots of times we have been weak in lots of areas, hope you have seen it as a chance to model the Gospel.

But it seems to me that local church is God’s vehicle for that specially to be modelled as a community

Cf 12: 1 – one of the ways the Holy Spirit works to show Jesus is Lord, by his body. God has organised the body that way so that there won’t be division, but so that the members will care for each other, and that shows Jesus.

Man, we have come a long way from Corinth in this one chapter. Gifts, far from being something stand on, boast about, and focus on, become a way and a means to model the fact that we are one body. If we use them as a way to try and distance ourselves from each other to separate the body, instead of feeling joy and sorrow as one, we have totally missed the point.

List of gifts, Answer to all of those questions in Paul’s mind is no. We are not all the same. But we are all one.


Blogger Nghia James Brown Room said...

Mr Maurice,

you havent written in a while but you have made up for it with this my brother.

i need to spend more time getting to know you more, i think in the last month or so i have no idea whats goin on with you, which mean i have been a rubbish brother in Christ.

will see you at church and maybe just maybe i will chase you to see how you


10:22 AM  
Blogger Ant said...

Hi. Thanks for posting these. Good stuff. Bring on the next instalment!

7:46 AM  

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