A theme that comes across a few times in the New Testament in the letters of Paul is that, as Christians, we are one body, the body of Christ. For example, it comes up in Colossians 3v15, Romans 12, 1st Corinthians 10v17 and Ephesians 4v4-6.
You will probably be familiar with this passage from 1st Corinthians 12 (emphasis added) :
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honourable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honourable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honour and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad. (v12-16 NLT)
I particularly highlighted the part where it says ‘If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it’. See, I think that verse, especially when taken together with the whole passage, should cause us to have major thoughts about our actions to each other. If we realized that every time we insult a fellow believer, we are hurting ourselves, maybe we’d be a bit more careful about what we said to people, and about people behind their backs. If we realized that every time we ignored the needs of a fellow brother or sister in Christ we were ignoring the needs of our body, maybe we would be a little more understanding of their needs, and less self-centred in our actions.
From this passage we are told that everybody has a part to play, but how often is it a case of the same old people, doing the same old things, and everyone else is left on the sidelines? Maybe we need to make more of an effort, not just to revalue how we treat others, but to be more inclusive. To include the people left on the sidelines. The people who are letting shyness hold them back. The people who are living up to the labels imposed upon them. The people that society in general excludes. For they can still be a part of the one body of Christ.
One last point. Right at the start of this passage I have highlighted the fact that it says “one whole body”. Note how it says ‘one’ body, not several bodies. But can we honestly say that in our church, our YF or our SU that there is such unity so that there is only one body? From personal experience, I don’t think we can. So maybe we need to make more of an effort, not just to include the outcasts of society, but to include all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Not just the ‘cool’ ones. Not just the ones that can lead worship well. Not just the ones with a good sense of humour. Not just those whose doctrine is identical to yours (“What is important is faith expressing itself in love” Gal5v6 – note that what is important is not doctrine – it is faith and love!). But we need to include everyone, for “The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.””. We are called to be One Body. Let’s try and live up to that call!