But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? (1 Corinthians 12:18-19)
One only has to look at the intricate and utter detail of the human body to understand something of the magnitude of our creator. When we consider how the endocrine system works with the lymphatic system and the neurological system, and the incredible potential of the human brain and all it’s intricate nerves and synapses, to appreciate the perfection of the creator God and the vastness of His knowledge and ability. There isn’t a single invention in the world that has not emerged from the study of of the ‘work’ of the master artist, God Himself. Man can do nothing without using the blueprints that God Himself has provided.
Why is it, then, that we cannot seem to apply the same respect and awe to the equally wonderfully formed body of Christ? Why do believer struggle to accept that that the body is made up of many separate and disparate parts, each with their own particular personality and function? Why is it that the body can appreciate the perfection of God’s plan for the human body, yet find itself so quick to criticize that same plan in the body of Christ? As always, the issue lies with with pride, that insidious root of all sin.
To say that there is anyone who has completely conquered this would be a total denial of the truth. It is the devil’s favourite weapon. Man is forever comparing one against the other, self against another, and often using the gifts that God has given as justification for varying attitudes that range, at best, from criticism or mockery through to outright condemnation and even attack. There are so many broken and dispirited believers, people who have encountered hurtful, unfounded and even malicious attitudes from their spiritual families, the very people that God put in place to love, nurture and protect them, to encourage them and to walk with them and teach them.
God Himself has declared that the parts of the body should be different. His Word today teaches us that He decides who should be a foot, and the shape of it. Some noses are similar, but others, even in the same family, may be noticeably different. It is God who molds the clay, and His sovereign choice as to what particular member of the body He wishes to appoint His children to fill. He also reminds us that no part of the body is inferior to the other, that the body as a whole requires all parts in order to function effectively in the way He has ordained it should. None is greater than the other, and none is inferior. In God’s eyes, a foot is equal to an ear is equal to a baby toe. All are created, through their fellowship with Him, to fulfill a specific and necessary function.
We are also taught that where there is unity, there God will bestow a blessing. Unity is not everyone agreeing with everyone else and everyone being the same. True unity is recognising a God-ordained pattern and respecting everyone’s purpose, because it is God who ultimately makes the decision. It means acknowledging that someone may be gifted differently, may function better than ourselves in certain areas. It means that we each, prayerfully and through the Spirit, seek God’s particular purpose for us in the body, and learn to be faithful in that, with joy and thanksgiving, and not to covet what they might consider ‘greater calling.’
Of course, everything should always be weighed against the Word of God. There are, sadly, people who claim to be things they are not, people who neglect the things they should be, and people who resent others who may be called to fulfill the same or similar functions. Always, as we are taught by the Word, it is for the leadership of the body – those appointed and annointed by God to lead the people – to test everything. Jesus teaches us that we will know by the fruit. That, together with the Word of God and the confirmation of the Spirit is the only measure, not feelings, beliefs and senses that are so often bandied about as justification for gossip and criticism. How many times does a ‘prophetic revelation,’ untried and untested, form the basis for a gossip campaign, or initiate the beginning of a split within the body as people are manipulated into ‘choosing sides?’
At the end of the day, if God decides He needs ten noses in a body and a dozen ears, who are we to judge this incorrect? While we usually only have one nose on a body, it may well be that God is raising and training others to fulfill a later need that we aren’t aware of. It’s up to the head how the body functions, not up to us. True unity can only be achieved when believers set aside their personal agendas, when they learn to love and respect others and different giftings, when they cease to feel threatened by the personalities and giftings of others and learn to focus specifically on the things that they are called to be and do.
True unity is focus on Christ, the head, and His will. Everything else is of little value. It is Christ alone who chooses and shapes His body, and His sure and certain command is unity. It is that we love one another as He loved us – without criticism, judgemental attitudes, paranoia or criticism. Surely our saviour, who so willingly laid down His body as the sacrifice for us, deserves the glory and the honour of a body wholly and completely surrendered to His Lordship.