Last week, I made the point from Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians 12 that all members of the church, because of their diversity, make up the unity of the body of Christ.
And Paul specifically defends that notion beginning inverse 17 by considering, what would the results be if every member of the body had exactly the same function? What would it mean if everyone were the same member?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
Again, this is silly, but what would the result be if the whole body were one big eye, just rolling down the sidewalk? The craziness of that notion should be applied directly to any thinking that says, I must not be a very important part of the body because I can’t do what so-and-so does. That’s crazy.
It’s crazy because—think about this—when you’re missing a part of your body, even a seemingly insignificant part—you really feel that. I mean, no one really thinks about your little toe, until you jam it on the corner of the bed in the middle of the night; then you really notice how indispensable your little toe is. You go around limping; your whole body is affected. I mean, if you didn’t have a little toe, you could make it, but your ability to balance and stand and walk would definitely be affected. “If all were a single member,” verse 29, “where would the body be?”
This kind of language is crazy, but unfortunately it is often a reality in churches today. Sometimes there are churches who deliberately design their programs to attract people of one narrow age demographic, even to the point where it doesn’t concern them that what they are doing is pushing the senior adults out of their church—they want the young people. Or some churches deliberately shun a particular ethnicity or social status. And so we have Eyeball Church over here and Big Toe Church over here.Or there are other churches that deliberately segregate the church by age or gender or other factors, and so you have this service over here to attract arms and this service over here to attract knees, and this class for index fingers and this class for ring fingers, and you end up having multiple churches characterized by very narrow natural distinctions under the umbrella of one church all segregated from one another.
But the fundamental problem of that kind of ministry strategy is that every one of the diverse body parts needs the other parts to function well! And that’s exactly how Paul continues his argument in verse 21.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require.
No part of the body can look at another part of the body and say, since you can’t do what I can do—since you’re not like me, then you’re not necessary. And this is even true for one part of the body that truly is, in a sense, stronger, or more honored, or more noticed, or even more necessary than another part. I mean, we all recognize that some parts of our bodies are more critical than others. If you got to choose whether you would lose a toe or a hand, most of us would choose the toe. But even then, your loss of the toe would affect the whole body.
And in the same way, I think we all recognize that certain functions within the body of Christ are in a sense more critical than others; I’m not talking about people,but functions. I mean, without someone who is gifted with the ability to preach and teach, it’s really hard to have a church. But even granting the point that some functions may be more critical or honorable than others, even “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” And so each member, no matter how noticeable on the outside, should receive the same equal honor within the body.