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We are Christ’s body, and individually members of it
As part of our ABF, “Life in the Body of Christ,” we read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and made observations about the passage. The observations help us understand how we are to interact with one another as members of the body of Christ. In the same way we can look at the human body and marvel at God’s wisdom in design, we can look at the church, Christ’s Body, and marvel at God’s handiwork.
The main teaching of the passage is, “We are Christ’s Body, and individually members of it.” All the observations stem from this truth. I thought it encouraging to list the observations here.
May our fellowship in the Spirit be pleasing in every way as we seek to incorporate these truths into our fellowship.
I was doing a little study in preparation for our elder’s retreat this weekend, and ran across these punchy observations regarding a difficult passage (1 John 2:19 – “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us”). It should be observed, he is making observations largely as it pertained to England, which has the Church of England, a state recognized church. Even so, I don’t think his analysis is any less applicable to American Evangelicalism.
We may think, as we look at the modern Church, and as we compare and contrast it with what appertained earlier this century, that we have fallen upon evil days and that the Church is no longer the Church of God. But look at it like this: at one time everybody went to church, and the churches were packed and crowded. But are we to assume from that that everybody who went to church was a true Christian? There were people who went to church for very strange and curious reasons; it was a habit or a custom; it was a social thing; it paid for people to go to church [socially or for reputation]. No, we must not assume that because the churches were packed they packed with Christians…
…The ultimate test is that we are OF the Church. That is how John puts it — ‘they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.’ What does this mean exactly; how may I know whether I am really “of” the Church or not? Well, it surely means this: True Christians are those who are in vital union with the Church. They are not loosely attached to it; they have not just got their names on the roll. They do not merely recognize a general sort of allegiance once a day or on some special Sunday. No, they are bound by vital bonds of union. In other words, they have life in them; they do not have to force themselves, but rather, they cannot help themselves. It is the difference between a member of the family and a great friend of the family; there is something within them that tells them, ‘This is my life; I am bound to them; these are my people.’ For them it is the big thing; they are bound by bonds of life itself; it is an organic and vital union, and the result is that they are in true fellowship with other Christians. They feel bound to them in a sense that they are not bound to anybody else. They feel that they understand them in a way that they do not understand anybody else; they feel that the Church is their home in a sense that nothing else is their home — “of us!”
There, it seems to me, is the vital distinction. So we ask ourselves a simple question: where do these things come in my daily life? What exactly is the place and value of these things in my experience? What is my attitude toward the whole thing? Is it central and vital, or is it something on the periphery of which I constantly have to remind myself? The people who are not ‘of us’ are the people who are on the fringe…
Wow! Programs, visitation, thank you cards, visitor packets, membership classes and suggesting to newbies that they “get plugged in” to ministry cannot CREATE this kind of relational vitality in the soul. Either the Spirit of God has joined you together with Christ to His spiritual family, and you enjoy this experience. Or, there is no experience of it, because the Spirit of God is not there. That is not to say that the things above cannot, or should not, be used to further cultivate those vital relationships (they can be deepened). Certainly, they can and should be sought and cultivated. But let’s be clear…it cannot create them.
His analysis summarized: “Those who do not love the church (it’s people, not its structures), do not love the Lord of the church. Pure and simple!”
This is part 2 of a 5 part series. This series was written for my friends in the cardiac-rehab program at Valley Regional Hospital.
We are taught by God to love one another.
The Principle of “One Another”
It is calculated over 50% of our stress is relationship related. God is very concerned about our relationships. So, it is not surprising the Bible talks a lot about how we are to relate to one another. The “one another” commands tell us things like, “love one another,” “be at peace with one another,” “forgive one another,” “be patient with one another,” “build-up one another,” “encourage one another,” “serve one another,” and so on. Imagine if everyone in the world obeyed all the “one another” commands of the Bible. Imagine half of our stress eliminated because all our relationships are healthy.
It is not just a matter of us getting along with one another, but also having a support group to turn to when we are faced with difficult situations. When we have people we can count on to help us, come alongside us, encourage us, and pray for us it makes life much easier. The Bible instructs church members to “bear one another’s burdens.” When someone is rejoicing, we rejoice with them. When they are in sorrow, we are to be sorrowful with them.
The Body of Christ, which is the Church, is meant to be a support group which eases the pains of life and shares in the blessings with one another. It is no surprise secular institutions recommend people with signs and symptoms of high-stress to join a church group to help them cope in life and reduce their stress.