Key scripture: 1 Corinthians 12; 12-26
It is clear from this passage that the church, the Body of Christ, is supposed to function in unity, as a body. But that clearly doesn’t mean we should be uniform. We are not supposed to be the same. In fact, just as the various parts of the body are different, we are different in age, character, life experience and in so many other ways. We have different functions. We have different roles to play.
I remember hearing a talk about this reading as a teenager which talked about Paul’s sense of humour in this passage. He’s saying imagine the whole body as an eye, bobbing along the street. Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? And what about a foot saying “I don’t belong because I’m not a hand. I’m not like the hand so I’m not important.” How would that body walk?
If you have not read this passage recently, I would really encourage you to take some time to do so. It is a great example of how God speaks to us through pictures. The more we contemplate the picture the more we see.
This passage is preceded by teaching about the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 12:1-11.
Verses 4-6 say, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
We should all expect to serve, work and receive gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we should not expect to be the same as others. Each of us remains unique. So, if we are all unique and different how are we supposed to get along? This can certainly be difficult. After all feet can be very smelly, and if I’m a nose I won’t want to hang out with feet!
Sometime people will say, “I know we are supposed to love others but that doesn’t mean we have to like them, or spend time with them, does it?” But I want to challenge that.
1 John 4:20 & 21 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
Also, 1 Corinthians 12, which we have read, is followed by Paul’s passage about love, 1 Corinthians 13. Verses 4-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always.”
This is radical love, and love in action. To love like this, we have to learn to like those we have differences with too.
So, what does our identity picture of the bus have to do with being the body of Christ? The bus image came out of one of the “going forward” prayer meetings that we had earlier in the year. We believe that God still speaks to us today and therefore, although obviously this is not scripture, in a similar way to Paul’s picture of the body, let the picture speak to you. However, remember that any analogy has its limits.
Everybody “is in the same boat”- well on the same bus anyway. We are not separate.
People are free to choose to get on, and off the bus, however the journey will be much more enjoyable if we can all get along. We need to recognise our differences, our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our own preferences to accommodate others. We should be like a family travelling together. I don’t know about you, but as we went on long journeys when the girls were young it could be a real challenge! And that was with only four of us. We had some of our worst family rows in the car, but we also had some of the deepest conversations and had the most fun, playing games together.
We should not be static! The bus is moving.
And the destination is clear- it’s on the front of the bus. Which is why we need to know our identity as a church.
We need to know what we believe.
We need to have vision for the future which is why we will be looking at our vision more in coming weeks.
Most importantly, Jesus is the driver. We go where he takes us! And we need to trust Him, especially when we travel over bumpy ground.
For you to think about
This season we have been looking at our identity as a church using the series of images shown below. Using the picture of the bus to represent togetherness, think about how we can be “together” in each of the other components of our identity.
How can we be a safe haven together?
How can we be generous together?
How can we be “divine” together?
How can we be courageous together?
How can we be illuminating together?