Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Body of Christ

Of course, if we're talking about the body, we're eventually going to get back to the body of Christ - the church. After all, if the New Testament is going to compare our fellowship to the interconnection of our physical parts, we should recognize that the things our bodies teach us about creation are things they also teach us about community. 

When our bodies teach us that we are paradoxes - strength and fragility, flexibility and limitation - then we have to realize that our fellowships are paradoxical, too. We are strong together, and we can do great things, but the more we are gathered together, the more points of potential fracture we have. Our strength is constantly tempered by our fragility. And as our bodies continue to grow, we have great flexibility in what we can do - the gifts of many that are able to touch many different areas of our communities and needs - but we must still remember that we cannot do everything. Many churches are prone to overstretching themselves, and it is this very principle that we learn from the physical body that is at play - flexibility with limitation. 

And there's something about brokenness in our fellowships, as well. It is brokenness, or failure, or fracture, that brings the whole picture back into a new focus. How many times have you heard of a church that was just rolling along, just cruising along and going with the flow until something absolutely dramatic happens that forces them to focus on something that isn't working, on a path that they strayed from a long time ago and nobody noticed? 

Churches, like bodies, are prone to both be obsessed with brokenness and also, at the very same time, to not take it too seriously. Churches often think that their strengths can overcome any weakness, that their ability in one area is enough to sustain them across all areas. It usually takes a significant brokenness for them to realize that no matter how strong their legs are, they'll never be able to breathe like this. And so the body of Christ is humbled in exactly the same way that the physical body is, when its wholeness is threatened and it comes to the point where it has to realize its interdependency and its need for all of its parts. 

And, sadly, we have adopted the name notions of "polite conversation" for the church that we have for our bodies - we don't talk about life, death, or brokenness in the ways that we ought to. We talk like we're ashamed of these things, even though they are part of the very nature of our design. 

We ought to be bodies with processes, for example, for handling waste, but too often, we are bodies who just carry a shovel and shove it under a rug. We ought to be bodies who acknowledge our shortcomings, our failures, our limitations, but we see these too often as weaknesses, afraid that we will be exploited for them, rather than seizing them as opportunities to illuminate the glories of God. We ought to be shouting with joy about life and life abundant, but somewhere, we got the idea that these are our private things...because we recognize that we are not the ones who give life at all; we are dependent upon the processes. 

Our physical bodies teach us so much, and they keep us in contact with the Creator who designed them. But they also teach us how to approach our communal bodies, the body of Christ, and the question we have to ask ourselves on both counts is...what are we learning? What are we letting ourselves be taught? 

And how is it affecting our witness?  

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