Reading: 1 Cor. 12:12–27
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
(1 Corinthians 12:21)
We are one body, yet made up of different parts. We have things shared, but at the same time we are diverse in so many ways. Paul’s analogy of the human body draws his readers to a logical conclusion: No part exists without the other. This means that our diversity is not grounds for independence; rather we are to realise our deep, Spirit-created need for each other. Verses 15-25 speak to this issue in a profound way. But interdependence in the church is quite a challenge. There are at least two ways in which the Corinthian church needed to understand this aspect of Body life:
The first is in verses 15-20, characterized by the statement: “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body” (V 15). Self-importance, on one hand, and a lack of self-worth on the other, is two extremes which may bring about a sense of “not belonging”. This may be exacerbated by others in the church reinforcing either of those perceptions, resulting in a kind of “paralysis” of the Body. It is likely that this is more an issue among people who feel they have very little to contribute.
The second way the challenge of interdependence is addressed is characterized by the statement: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (V21). This has to do with the notion that some feel they can do without others…that they can do without the Church. Paul’s point is that if our physical bodies behaved like this, we would be in a world of trouble! Some might say, “I love Christ more than I love the church.” But Jesus is the head of his Body, the Church. Such a “disconnect”, therefore, is deeply problematic.
Throughout the ages, one of the easiest ways for the church to create divides within the Body, has been along socio-economic lines. This was demonstrated by the disastrous way in which the Lord’s Supper was being celebrated in the Corinthian church.
James takes the Church to task (James 2:1-4) regarding discrimination arising among themselves: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
Discrimination along any lines within the Church is just another way of saying: “I don’t need you!” But the Church will always be made up of people in need and those who are well-off. As such, neither “group” should wait until things improve before trying to share life together authentically.
Any way in which we say “I don’t need you,” to those who worship alongside us, flies in the face of God’s desire for us to intentionally love and care for each other in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us hear God calling us to be the Body of Christ, and members in particular, who provide love and care to each other in an environment of trust.
Loving, heavenly Father, we know that your heart breaks every time we treat each other in ways that deny your love for us. Please forgive us and help us to be known as Christ’s disciples by the love we show to one another; evidenced by how we care for and accept each other as members of the same Body – who are called by your name. Amen