“The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit.” (Contemporary English Version)
As you well know, it’s easy to take things for granted. For instance, we don’t typically think too much about our toes… until we stub them, drop something on them, break them, or need a podiatrist to operate on them. Then, we not only know they’re still there, but our entire body (along with the mind and emotions!) feels the need to give a lot of attention to lowest end of our body that enables us to stand and walk without thinking much about it.
The body is an apt metaphor for how to think about humanity and its various systems and institutions. We might see the face of any church or organization, but there are scads of people behind the scenes doing all kinds of good work. For example, the golfing profession understands the importance of caddies; lawyers know the need of paralegal persons; healthcare facilities and organizations rely not only on nurses and social workers, but also on cooks and housekeepers; schools need the coordination of teachers, parents, students, volunteers, and the entire community to effectively realize the education of children.
Also, as you well know, it’s easy to take for granted services we receive… until we don’t receive them, or in a way to our liking. Then, we pay attention. We want action and resolution. We want our food now and to our exact specifications. Sometimes we might even forget that we are dealing with people, not cogs in a machine or parts in a system. Millions of people labor every single day, sometimes even seven days a week, just to make ends meet and provide for their families. When we neglect to understand this, or see it right in front of our eyes, we have done our fellow human beings a disservice.
It’s also awfully easy to forget how extremely radical the Apostle Paul’s words were for 1st century folks, especially in religious circles. Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew community was God’s people. If you wanted to worship the one true God, you came to Jerusalem and learned from Jews. But Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit changed things in such a profound and organic way that the world would never be the same again.
It was firmly established by the early church, and preached with fervor and flavor by Paul, that there would not be a separate Jewish church and Gentile church. They have become one Body of Christ through the redemptive events of Jesus. Both Jews and Gentiles have the same Spirit – not different Spirits for each group. Jesus Christ did not die so that people could be fragmented from each other; He was crucified to end once for all the segregation, discrimination, and ostentation of one group of people above another.
The cross was the ultimate radical act of justice against the powers of this dark world that seek to rank people according to their relative importance and worth.
The power of the resurrection is the energy of God raising Christ from death to triumph over the realm and system of evil throughout the earth. All kinds of people everywhere are to rise with Christ in a great demonstration of God’s power to subvert the status quo of discriminatory racism, extreme individualism, gender inequality, social and economic class-ism, and any kind of “ism” which places one group of people in subjection to another in misguided notions of superiority.
The church is to be a community of redeemed people that reflects the diversity of God’s big world. No two groups of people could have been more different than Middle-Eastern Jews and Greek Gentiles. Yet, Paul insisted that they together, not separate, make up the one Body of Christ. It isn’t easy listening to another group of people who think and act differently than you and me. But listen we must. And respond we must. It is our responsibility as believers in the way of Christ.
“God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least important are valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy. Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body.” (Contemporary English Version)
There is no ability to look down your nose on another person if you are already kneeling on the ground in humble prayer at the foot of the cross. There is only the chance to look up. There is even the opportunity to allow someone less privileged and fortunate to assist you. Yes, we all need one another – even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. It isn’t our job to colonize other people’s culture and society to make it more like our own. It is our duty to share the Gospel, make room at the Table, extend love in the Name of Jesus, and work together as the one people of God, formed by the Spirit.
Almighty God of all creation, I understand that we don’t struggle merely against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities – those institutions and systems that keep separations alive by perpetuating the lie that some members of the family are inferior and others superior. Create in us a new mind and heart that will enable us to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by human constructed categories of power disparities. Give us the grace and strength to rid ourselves of stereotypes that oppress some of us while providing entitlements to others. Help us to create a Church and nation that embraces the hopes and fears of oppressed people everywhere we live, as well as those around the world. Heal your family, God, and make us one with you, in union with our Lord Jesus, and empowered by your Holy Spirit. Amen.