This Sunday we’ll be reading this great passage from 1 Corinthians 12 (vv 12-31a), which is where Paul really opens up the idea of God’s people functioning together as a single unit. In considering the passage, I think it’s helpful to acknowledge that it’s a metaphor – and not a simile. This isn’t a “take it or leave it” analogy, but a “this is how it is” analogy. We stop at 31a, though the verse goes past, because the final part of that verse leads into the next passage from this one.
The passage is ultimately saying that in God’s economy the Church functions as a single body which is composed of many members, and that just as in a human body each part has a particular function, so in the Church body each has a particular function – no part is any less a part of the body because it does not function in the same way as another part. We might pause and consider the ways that we fracture and divide the body, and what criteria we base those divisions on. Christ doesn’t.
When we start talking about what the passage means, we find that Paul is challenging us: do not see things the way that the world sees things, but the way that God does. See yourselves as the body that you are, in Christ. Embrace this vision for your life together! These cries come to us through the centuries. East Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Mennonite: God’s Church is one body; high churchmanship, low churchmanship, catholic, evangelical: God’s Church is one body; men or women, aged or young, upper-, middle-, or lower-class, whatever ethnic identity: God’s Church is one body.
It should make us pause. What if we’re Christian first, and denominationally aligned second? What about the divisions that we create even within our own denomination, or within our own congregation? What has God called us out of the world and into His Kingdom, to accomplish? Was it all a ruse, another source of division? Or was it for the sake of the unity of all people who will submit themselves to being His people?