You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells – but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives.
We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain – his Spirit – where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves – labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free – are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.
I Corinthians 12:12-18
Recently, I was at Hardee’s talking to a 20-something man working there about church and about the kingdom of God. He invited me, predictably enough, to his church. I told him, “Usually, I get along with churches and their pastors much better when I don’t go to them.”
After we had this conversation, I read I Corinthians 12 and realized something that is a vital revelation for us all. You see, we are all one body—all of us. Everyone whose sins are forgiven by Jesus is a part of the same body. This includes the people we like, the people we hate, the people we just can’t get along with, the people we disagree with, the people we think are anti-Christs—each and every one of them.
This becomes all the more important when you read Hebrews 11:
I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more – Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, [this long list of heroes of the faith] toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves.
They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.
Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – the world didn’t deserve them! – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
This is a short message, but a vital one for our survival. Think about it! Look at a door near where you’re reading this now. Is it possible for your foot to go through that door without taking the rest of you along with it? The same is true for the kingdom of God. It is absolutely, completely, totally, inexorably impossible for us to enter into our rest in the kingdom until everyone else does. Wake up! You’re not going anywhere until the brother who you can’t stand enters into the kingdom.
Do you see this? No wonder it is so important for us to walk in love and forgiveness towards people. No wonder Jesus spent so much time cautioning us to love our enemies. Without them, you’re not going anywhere!
My friend, Charles and I went to see the movie “The End of the Spear” this year. It’s about a handful of missionaries who rescued a tribe from self-destruction by being willing to forgive them for the murder of their husbands and fathers. From now on, don’t pay attention to the pain that someone has caused you. Look at this as an opportunity. For how much more effective is it for someone who should hate us to love us. Jesus said, “They shall know you by your love.”
The blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!