One Body in Christ - part 2
Christian community is community through Christ.
If you believe in Christ, you are a member of Christ. And what about all the other people in your church? It is simple, really: If that person believes in Jesus, then you are in community with them. Whether you like them or not, whether you recognize this reality or not, you are joined to them.
This is an important point for understanding what fellowship is. A lot of the time when we talk about fellowship, we put an equals sign between fellowship and social events. We come together for a celebration, or we have a cup of coffee after the worship service, and we call that fellowship: “That was great fellowship.”
Other times when we talk about fellowship, it is something that we aspire to: “I wish there was better fellowship in our church.” That is indeed something to aspire to, but there is something more. Christian fellowship is more than social events or a cherished ideal.
Our fellowship in Christ is something that already is. It is not a luxury, but a reality. And it is not a goal, it’s a necessity. If we both believe in Christ, then you and I are already in community with each other.
Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 4:4-6,
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
He cannot emphasize it enough: there is one body. All believers have a fundamental connection in Christ and in his Spirit.
We are a body, many members connected to one another—only now the question is what this body will do. The question is whether we will live in the unity that we have, and work it out. Will we just talk about this unity, or actually experience it?
This is also what Paul reminds the Corinthians about in his first letter. The Spirit isn’t just for special folks in the church, the ones in leadership and those at the forefront. The Spirit is for all of us ordinary people, as we are equipped by God’s Spirit. The same God, the same Lord, and the same Spirit are working in the church through his multitude of gifts.
When Christ gives the Holy Spirit to a person, or gives some other blessing to a person, that gift is meant for the common good. It is meant to be shared.
Remember, it is just like the 7,500 parts of the body which have been put together in an intricate cohesion, a tightly-wrought unity in which each part has its place. So also the members of the church can depend on each other. If we are connected to Christ, and connected to each other, then it is also certain that we need one another. This means we are obligated to use our gifts and blessings for the common good. Consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12:7,
The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
The body of Christ is meant for service. If by faith in Christ you are part of his body, then you personally have a calling towards the other members. You’re not too old, or too young, too shy, too ordinary or untalented. The Spirit has been given to each one for the benefit of all!
Returning to Paul’s image of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 he talks about how all the members are needed. There may not be arguing among the different parts, where the hand goes on strike, and the eye takes a vacation. They need to work together, whether the parts are weaker or stronger, presentable or less honourable: “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased” (v. 18).
So if you feel like you have little to contribute, you are wrong. You are not an appendix that we can snip out, or a kidney that we can donate. The body needs you.
God knows that the individual parts of the body do not do well on their own. Likewise, being dependent is our basic condition as humans.
Life is hard for us, for all kinds of reasons. Yet often we don’t even want to accept help, because we think we’re fine on our own. But we have to recognize our deep insufficiency. We need God, but we also need one another in the body.
Others have gifts for our benefit and can help us. It is the good design of God that we walk side by side. So we all need to seek the well-being of others, and we need to look for opportunities to help one another.
So what is the beautiful purpose to our fellowship in Christ?
First, being united in Christ brings glory to God. The LORD God delights in unity—the LORD himself is the God of unity, for God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit experience a perfect oneness, a perfect love among them. We imitate God, and we honour God, by being one in Him.
Second, being the one body of Christ becomes a witness to the world. This world is used to people fragmenting and becoming alienated from each other. Everyone knows that this is what humans do: we build walls, and we look out for ourselves. So what a statement it makes to the world when Christians live in unity, when we show genuine care for each other!
And being the one body of Christ provides great strength for believers. We can be greatly blessed by the care of fellow Christians. On our own, we are weak, prone to fall, and easily overpowered. But together we are strong. This is exactly why Christ gives gifts to his church: “So that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13).
That is our challenge: to look at each other in Christ—to see in each other a fellow member of Christ’s body, to see in each other someone to walk alongside.
This is someone to help, someone to love.
And this is someone who can love and help me.