Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 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. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 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!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:14-27 NIV)
You know when your surgeon calls you on a Friday night, he’s probably not calling to tell you to have a great weekend, nor to say, “I just wanted to call and tell you how great your test results were.” It was that Friday morning when, for the first time in my life, I was slid into one of those loud, high tech tube-shaped coffins to get my first MRI. A couple of weeks and a few insurance reviews earlier I had gotten the referral I needed to go to a back specialist after my doctor, a friend of mine, saw me walking around like Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Sunday before the appointment I was in so much pain that I had to literally be rolled down the aisle to the pulpit in a wheelchair and preached my sermon sitting on a stool. “You have a ruptured disc,” the surgeon said. I wasn’t really sure what that was, but between my pain level hitting about a 12 on a scale of 1 – 10, and of course, as I mentioned, the fact he felt the need to call me on a Friday night instead of just enjoying his weekend, and telling me Monday, I knew it was neither just a minor injury nor something that would just be a quick-fix. (You know, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.”) The thing that did seem simple however, was the way this highly educated specialist tried to explain it to me. He observed that my disc was kind of like a jelly donut, and apparently when you tear the donut (a protective wall called the annulus), all that jelly (i.e. the Nucleus Pulposus) comes out and hits all those raw nerves. This tiny part of the body, when it no longer functioned as God intended, totally incapacitated me.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he alludes to a potentially similar challenge related to a much greater body, the Church – and its individual parts, better known as its people. The church is called the Body of Christ for a reason, and that body is only as strong as its weakest part. That one person who sits in the pews but who metaphorically stands on the sidelines when it comes to sharing their faith and/or serving “the Body,” because of their faith, can negatively affect the effectiveness of an entire church. Theologian Adam Clarke wrote, “As all the members of the body are necessarily dependent on each other, and minister to the general support of the system, so is it in the Church. All the private members are intimately connected among themselves, and also with their pastors; without which union no Church can subsist”.
As important as it is for folks to be in church, the church, or Body of Christ is blessed by both one’s presence and participation. This is the Body of Christ at its best, but when folks are not intimately connected, akin to the undue stress that was placed on my disc and caused it to rupture, the Body suffers. Just one member’s lack of shouldering their share of responsibilities, serving those in need, and sharing the love of Jesus Christ, can place undue stress on the other members of the Body, who are often over compensating for a fellow believer’s lack of participation. As members of the Body of Christ, we either strengthen it or weaken it. I encourage you to examine your role in the church and amongst your brothers and sisters-in-Christ, and commit to fully being a vital part of the Body, by joyfully doing your part. God bless.