Paul clearly describes in 1 Corinthians 12 the core elements of a theology of unity and diversity withing the Body of Christ. God grants a diversity of ministry functions to the church, but because of Spirit baptism, people of diverse backgrounds and abilities are unified into one body. His whole purpose in this discussion is to prevent disunity within the church, a disunity we are seeing grow more and more in evangelical churches today, unfortunately.
And this is where Paul concludes his argument in the second half of verse 24:
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Here’s Paul’s concern: Diversity within the body—any kind of diversity, whether it be functional diversity like he’s focused on mostly here, or ethnic diversity, or diversity of vocation, or gender, or age, or anything else—should never lead to division within the church. It should not lead to division, because the diversity is not a deficiency of the body, it is exactly how God designed the body so that it could function to its fullest potential.
And not just that it can function in its external, outward ministries, but so the various, diversely functioning parts of the body can best care for each other. We need each other, not in spite of our functional diversity but because of our diversity. One ear can’t put a Band-Aid on another ear; you need a hand to do that. One little toe can help another little toe from getting stubbed on the corner of the bed; you need an eye to do that.
And likewise, we need each other specifically because we are diverse. We need each other’s diverse gifts; that’s the only way we will grow. This is why several of the New Testament epistles address old men and young men, old women and young women, parents and children, masters and slaves, pastors, deacons, and every other kind of church member. All of these were present in one church gathering listening to the letter read; all of these were together ministering to one another and caring for one another. We need a multigenerational, multigifted church, and we each need to be actively part of ministering one to another.
This is why you need to be a part of gatherings of the church whether possible. It is so common in churches today to have people who slip into a Sunday morning service late and race to their cars as soon as the Benediction is given. You cannot flourish like that. You need regular, faithful interaction with other members of the body who have different gifts and functions than you do for your own spiritual growth. You need to join together with other diverse members of this body for Bible study on Sunday mornings, where each person with our diverse gifts brings something unique to the discussion. You need to prioritize our bi-weekly prayer meetings on Sunday morning where we care for each other. You need to make a point to be at the large group meetings our church where women of all diverse giftedness minister to each other and men of diverse gifts minister to each other. You cannot grow spiritually by yourself. And even if you could; even if you think, I’m doing just fine spiritually on my own, we need you and your particular unique giftedness. Don’t hoard your gifts. Each one of us needs each other.
This is also why I want my children to be part of the gatherings of our church. My children need other Christian influence. Becky and I are the ones primarily given the responsibility from God to rear our children, and we certainly have the greatest impact on them and their spiritual development, but I truly believe that if we tried to nurture them alone without all of the rest of our church, we would fail. My children need to see other Christians singing in the service; they need to hear them pray; they need to benefit from the exercise of their particular gifts. It is a great mistake to segregate the children off into meetings outside the church’s gatherings where they never benefit from the diverse gifts of the whole body. And, by the way, we need the children of our church as well.
If one member of our church suffers, we all suffer together, and we are all stronger because of it. If one member is honored, we all rejoice, and we are better because of it. This is how God designed his church, the body of Christ.
The question before us is whether we will commit to using the diverse gifts God has given each one of us to build up and edify one another in the body of Christ. Will you dedicate what God has given you to serve and care for the other members of the body, as God intended?