One of my favorite songs from my “Blood Kin” album is ‘His Blood Has Made Us One.’ The chorus is, “His blood has made us one; the blood of God’s own Son. One in purpose. One in power. His blood has made us one.” This song is heavily based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, and Martha and I want to share a few thoughts about this passage that have been on our hearts since that time.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Regardless of where you were saved, what your background is, or what denomination the pastor was that may have led you in a prayer, we have all been saved into one Spirit and into one body, and every Christian lives spiritually by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,”
it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,”
it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.
This section of the passage reminds me of conversations I’ve had through the years with audience members who, after a concert, tell me, “I wish I could do what you do,” or “I wish I could sing like that.”
While I appreciate the compliment, if that is not their gift or their calling, then they are in effect valuing another calling or another gift more highly than the calling and gifts that they have themselves received.
But the truth is, not a single part of the body is less important than another. Most of the parts of our physical bodies that are highly visible are not strictly necessary to live. Some of us have proved that we can live without hair. I’m learning this slowly. You can live without perfect vision. I’ve never known what most people see. But if you lose your internal organs that are never seen, you die. And this is true of Christ’s body as well.
The vast majority of Christians are not famous and highly visible. The majority are the inner, unseen workings of the body of Christ: those who pray, work, fast, love, witness, serve, give, stand fast, and support. Now, please understand, there is no Christian more ‘important’ than another, but the internal, unseen members are truly more vital to the survival and health of the body of Christ. If I stop singing, the televangelist stops broadcasting, the Christian DJ stops talking, the theologian stops writing, the church lives and goes on.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body,
every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
If they were all one part, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
This is really just too good to pass up. To me, Paul’s somewhat sarcastic picture here is one of the comical passages of Scripture. Can you imagine an eyeball, rolling around, trying to win someone to Jesus? Or a leg hopping around trying to proclaim the wonders of God without a mouth? How about a mouth lying on the ground proclaiming the Gospel loudly, but with no way to see, hear, or get to an audience? Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I can’t help snickering a little at those mind pictures.
The idea is, these are all important parts, but without ALL the rest of the body to support, compliment, and work with, it is a pitiful excuse for a witness. The Holy Spirit points out through Paul’s wording, “God has placed the parts in the body,” and then he adds for emphasis, “every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” It strikes me that this is a past tense statement. If you are saved, you have already been placed and assigned a role. Don’t wish you had another job in the body when you haven’t yet recognized the vital nature of the job that you and you alone have already been commissioned to do!
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”
And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
I love these two comparisons. Paul is now making a gear shift from those that feel inadequate and unimportant in the body, to warning those who would be tempted to have a condescending attitude toward those who are not as visible or as recognized.
In this beautiful picture he warns the people with highly visible gifts and callings not to despise or look down upon those whose gifts are not as visible. Hand-eye coordination is part of his first comparison. The hand may say to the eyes “I can do my work without you,” but they would just grope around in blindness. The eye might say to the hands, “I can see without you,” but though you may see your goal, you will never attain it.
His second picture of the head versus the feet takes us to the extreme ends of the human body; the head being the highest point of the body, and the feet the lowest. Here is a scolding against those who would say “I am above you and therefore I am more important.”
On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
God has put the Church together in such a perfect and meticulous way that Paul points out, if one part is in pain, every part knows about it, and if one part rejoices, the whole body shares in the joy. In Philippians 2 Paul outlines the attitude that the Church should have toward the Church: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Since God has placed you where you are, when you wonder what you are called to do, look first at where you live — at the people who are in closest proximity to you. If you are a child, you are called to minister to your parents. If you are a husband, you are called to minister to your wife. If you are a wife, you are called to minister to your husband. If you are parents, you are called to raise and minister to your children. Not often looked upon as serious bases of ministry are the workplace, or where you go to school, but wherever you are, you are called to “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15).
Then you have the callings of those who are the hands and the feet of the church: those who take care of widows and orphans and the poor, those who pray without ceasing, those who give of their money and their time, those who take care of the sick and visit the nursing homes, those who show hospitality, those who vacuum the church, and those who take a pie to a shut in. Can you imagine the church without these callings and ministries? This is the majority of the church. This is the heartbeat of a healthy church. These are all vital callings, and the New Testament is full of instruction as to how to fulfill these callings and in so doing to bring glory to God and edify His Church. At this point I cannot help thinking of our parents, who raised both of us up to love Jesus. What an amazing blessing, and what a powerful ministry, we are realizing more fully now.
All of these callings are just as intentional on God’s part and just as vital in the body of Christ as the calling He gives the full time evangelist, or the pastor, or whatever person you think of when you think “ministry.”
So the next time you get up in the middle of the night and you stub your toe on the coffee table, take special note of how long it takes for your head to know it, and how long it takes for that toe to become one of the most protected and treasured parts of your body.