Have you ever pondered this remarkable creation called your body? Throughout history, we humans have studied and tried to explain the dynamic capabilities of this instrument.
Consider how the bones, muscles, and tendons work together to produce strength and movement. Wonder at how the bone marrow, the red and white blood cells, and plasma sustain life and fight disease. Marvel at DNA and RNA as the building blocks of life. Probe the depths of the brain, the control center of the body, yet grasp that we have only begun to understand its capabilities. We seem to know so much, yet each day we discover more. We can explain the chemical and mechanical functioning but remain amazed at the way the average body so quickly and easily integrates the multitude of functions necessary for the simplest movement.
A Model for the Body of Christ
This is the model for the body of Christ—a smoothly functioning, seemingly simple, but ever so complex organism capable of accomplishing remarkable and astonishing tasks. Can it be that a diverse group of human beings, under the control of one Head, can function as smoothly as a physical body? That is God’s plan for His church, His ekklesia.
That’s His plan for unity. Our task is, like the human body, to stop resisting and to begin functioning in a smooth, integrated, effective way so that we can become effective Kingdom carriers.
In His final prayer for His disciples, Jesus prayed that we might be one as He and His Father are one. Why? So that the world would know that the Father sent the Son to redeem every person because of his great love for His creation (see John 17:23). His overarching goal was to establish a Kingdom on earth that mirrors the one in Heaven (see Matthew 6:10). Throughout the rest of the New Testament, we see the working out of that concept.
Taking that admonition to heart, the early believers spent time every day worshipping and breaking bread together, enjoying one another’s fellowship, and holding everything in common (see Acts 2:42-47). All “were one in heart and mind” (see Acts 4:32) and their example was a witness to the world of the validity of their faith. Truly, the way that we are with one another, the concern we show for one another, is evidence of our commitment to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom on earth.
Paul coined a new term for the church, composed of all believers. He call it the Body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 12:27, Romans 12:5, Colossians 1:24). That body has Jesus Christ as its head (see Ephesians 1:23) and each one of us becomes a member of that body when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (see John 1:12, John 5:24, John 17:3, 1 John 5:13). That one body shares much in common—one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (see Ephesians 4:3-6). The body of Christ has two components: 1) the universal church, composed of all Christians everywhere, and 2) the local church, composed of each assembly of believers.
In 1Corinthians 12:25 (ESV) we read that “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” It’s that oneness of being like a body that results in our concern for one another. The word translated as “concern” here can mean to concern one’s self, to have your thoughts occupied with, to feel an interest in, or even to be anxious for. Each of these meanings might be appropriate as we think about having concern for one another. Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 12:26 (ESV) to say, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
So that’s a lot of theology!
I hope you’re still with me. What do we do with all of this?
If you’ve been a Christian for more than a few years, you’ve been through division, either among individual Christians or perhaps even a church split. I’ve experienced both, and I can tell you, it’s no fun. The open wound lasted for years. And the scar can last a lifetime. We weren’t created to love and care and have concern for one another at that level and then to experience division.
So what do we do? Bottom line, division will hurt. Sometimes like a slug in the stomach. Sometimes like a knife in the back. Know that in advance because there’s no escaping it.
But then what?
First, do not allow yourself to take up an offense. Just don’t do it. Your first impulse will be to take the hurt personally and get offended. That’s sort of like banging your head when you stub your toe. It just adds to the pain. Instead, take a firm stand and begin forgiving immediately. Release everyone involved from the debt they owe you. Remember that when you allow yourself to be offended, you’re only hurting yourself because you are part of the same body.
Second, acknowledge your part in the division. Are you really totally innocent? Sometimes you are, but often you’ll need to face the fact that you added just a teeny tiny bit to the division. If you find guilt on your part, be sure to fess up. Confess your sins to the others involved. You’ll be surprised at how much that will do to bring healing.
Third, begin praying for those involved, whether it’s an individual or your local church. Pray that they understand how they have harmed you and perhaps others. Pray that they understand the importance of the unity of the church. Pray for the hidden and unhealed hurts that motivated the division.
Finally, leave the results to God. He cares more for the unity of the body than you do. If you’re certain that you’ve done your part, leave it to God. That means, let go. Stop obsessing about it. Stop rehearsing it. Just stop it! When the pain returns, don’t pick the scab. Turn it back over to God and watch what he does. You’ll be surprised how often He will restore unity where you were unable to.
If this concept excites you, I invite you to check out my new bible study, Kingdom Now: Pursuing Unity in the Body of Christ to Change the World.