Monday, January 27, 2020

Covering the Body

One of our favorite images for the people of faith is that we are the "body of Christ." We take this image from the writings of Paul, where he encourages the church that not every one of them needs to have the same gifting and that they are, in fact, better together - the way that the different parts of the body have different functions but each is necessary to make one, whole, healthy body (1 Corinthians 12).

Undoubtedly, if you've been around Christians long enough, you've heard somebody say something to the effect of, "Well, if we are the body, then I must be God's little toe! I'm nothing at all! I don't even know what my function is!" (Of course, the little toe's function is finding the edges of furniture when one gets too close, but that's another point altogether.)

I have, in my time, heard even more crude comments, centered around parts of the body that we don't like to talk about or parts that we make sure are always covered up. The...unmentionables, which even extends to perhaps the parts we just don't talk about but wouldn't consider crude, per se.

But if you read what Paul says about the body, he says that there is perhaps greatest honor in these parts. Actually, what the Scripture says is that we give great honor to the least honorable parts of the body.

And he's right.

We give them greater honor because we are so careful to take proper care of them. We get up in the morning, and that's the first thing we cover. We wrap it in tender care so that it is not exposed, so that it does not become fodder for staring eyes. We get up in the morning and put on underwear for the special protection of what seem like our dishonorable parts, then put on socks to shield our dirty, calloused feet, but none of us thinks much about covering, say, our elbows. We don't urgently hurry to wrap up our shins. We wear our faces uncovered so that others can tell who we are at a glance. None of us feverishly hides our ears, lest someone see. Because these are, we think, dignified parts of us.

Think, though, about those parts we're covering. They are essential to our life. They are vital to continue living. The anus and urinal openings remove waste from our bodies; without them, we would poison ourselves in a matter of days, perhaps hours. The genitals produce new life; without them, we would die out. Well, actually, we would have died out long ago and we wouldn't be here, having this conversation. The feet get remarkably dirty, crusted, calloused, fungused - they come into contact with literally everything wherever we venture and pick up the wastes of this world; without them, however, we would struggle to go anywhere, to do so much.

The same is true in our churches. In this body of Christ in which we dwell. Those persons who say they aren't an honorable part of the body are often most honorable part. We usually don't put them on stage, don't have them handing out bulletins at the doors. They're not the first persons we have greeting guests on Sunday mornings or heading up the missions team. We probably don't even have them volunteering in the children's church or taking nursery duty.

But these are the persons who remove waste from our bodies. They are the quiet counselors, the founts of wisdom to where other members of the body can turn for comfort and help. Just to vent. They're the persons who are truly really good friends to everybody, and they think, oh, I'm not doing anything for the body; I must just be God's little toe, but that's not true. They are the comforters, taking care of the toxins of our systems.

Theses are the persons who give us life. They are the persistent encouragers, always there to remind you that you're just one step away from the next glory. Always standing with you and cheering and clapping, getting you to go for it. They, too, are truly really good friends to everybody, and they think, oh, I'm not doing anything; my gift isn't anything at all. But that's not true. They are the encouragers, giving life to the body.

We live in a world that wants to quantify our value by what we do with it, as though meaning is some sort of definable action that we can give a title to. If you don't have a title or a position or something formal around it, it can feel like you're not doing anything. It can feel like you are less honorable than some others, but that's just not the case.

The truth is that those who think they aren't doing anything for the body are those with whom we tend to take the most care, because we realize how essential they are for our life. We realize that without them, we lose very vital functions of faith. It's easy to mistake it for pity - like we're just focusing on them because they're right, they are not valuable at all and it's kind of sad that they don't have a gift to use like the rest of us. It's easy to mistake for dishonor, that we shield and shelter these persons so much. But it's exactly the opposite. It's that we recognize the incredible value of their gifts and the invaluable nature of their contributions to the body, and we seek to protect and to keep them at all costs.

These "less honorable" parts of the body are doing our dirtiest work for us, and that's why we take such great care with them, bestowing great honor on what seems dishonorable. For without them, we are nothing at all. And we know it.

Even if we don't want to talk about it. 

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