May 12, 2021·Cameron Squire
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:27
The Ancient Greeks, much like today, were obsessed with the body — the body as an ideal, an aspirational perfection, and inspired beauty. You can easily see this in their sculptures, monuments, philosophy, mythology and, of course, the Olympics — which were brazenly performed in the nude. The underlying preoccupation with perfection wasn’t something completely attainable, but it was a guiding principle. The closer you were to their theoretical ideal, the closer you were to the gods — to be hailed, honored, prized, celebrated, loved. The further away from the ideal, the greater the shame.
Paul writes his letter to the Corinthians, a church community that would have been steeped in this idealism that created hierarchies of minds and bodies. It would be no surprise to anyone to use the human body as a metaphor for a group of people who were modeling their life after the perfect man in Jesus. Strikingly, he flips the normal hierarchy on its head and says, in this Body, we celebrate and honor the weak, the outcast, the outclassed, the people that society forgets and sweeps under the rug. All the bodies that aren’t sculpted from slabs of marble. Any mind not minted among diamonds (1 Corinthians 12:22-26).
Paul is building on the idea that God’s Kingdom mission is upside down and confounds Greek wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). What seems foolish, irrational, without strategy or good metrics is the very space where God operates to show His love and strength and goodness over us. We are asked to consider the needs and interests of others, even if it’s the least expedient or comfortable thing to do (Philippians 2:4).
There is no perfect person. In fact, I daresay there’s no normal or typical person. The same can be said about a church.
There are no insiders and outsiders in our community — no “us” and “them.” Each person fills a unique, irreplicable spot on this earth and in God’s Kingdom. The Body of Christ is not The Borg from Stark Trek The Next Generation — Cybernetic aliens assimilating the universe, converting and absorbing imperfect beings into a more perfect and uniform world, connected into a vast hivemind of like thought, body and purpose, where resistance is futile.
Pastor Tim is pushing us toward a greater level of inclusion in our already diverse Body, like being hospitable to those without houses, marginalized ethnicities, people with disabilities (visible or not), and being sensitive to practices that are unconsciously alienating.
This passage helps me recognize that the Body of Christ does not mean only making space to welcome those whom we pity and can minister to magnanimously. It means receiving ministry from them, humbly, as members of the same family, honoring their gifts and the contribution they bring to the Body. It means listening, being willing to learn, expand leadership, to step aside and center those who are easily pushed aside. And it means ministering with people, side by side, with empathy and love (1 Corinthians 12:26).
You know, full participation and inclusion may be messy and awkward, but that’s just because bodies are involved. The Good News, thankfully, does not perpetuate communities of shame and elitism in pursuit of Christ.