Saturday, December 22, 2012

Body of Christ part 7

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?  Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.-1 Corinthians 12:27-31

The big questions at hand. Should everybody have one particular gift, or does anybody have all the gifts? They are not flat out answered in this passage, but if you take the entire passage of 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 into consideration, the answer should be obvious. Which is no on both counts. However, there are denominations (which I will not name in accusation) that overtly think otherwise; despite the Bible’s evidence to the contrary. If you don’t have the gift of tongues, in their minds it’s a sign you are an unrighteous person. Also in practice, if not in actual polity, most churches do expect some people to do it all; we call them pastors. So we don’t have to carry our own fair share of the load of responsibility. So the church in such cases seems like a quadriplegic. All the parts are there, but most are inactive. The drop out rate for new pastors these days is at an all time high. Many don’t last for more than 5 years before they are burnt out. All because the lay people do not desire the greater gifts, and the responsibility that goes with them. All because we only have love for self, not the leaders whom we put such unrealistic burdens upon. This is a very non-excellent way to run a church. 

no one person can bear the burden of the entire church other than Jesus himself
Inflamed Heart

Friday, December 21, 2012

Body of Christ part 6

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues
1 Corinthians 12:22-28

the people of greater privilege must take greater responsibility
All God's Children
diverse people rejoicing in God's hands
Rejoicing Together

Granted within the body of Christ there are positions of greater privilege.  However, if the church is truly unified by God’s spirit, then none of that should matter. We should all share in the accomplishments of the few, without pride and envy to come along and spoil it; the spirit just doesn’t guide us towards such childish behavior. By the unity of God’s spirit, it also shouldn’t matter that some people are higher maintenance than others. For diverse people have diverse needs. The Bible recognizes this and insists that we have equal concern for one another despite differing treatments. The sad reality of this is that many envy the privilege of some, yet failing to recognize that with greater privilege come greater responsibility. Such people often try to take all the privilege they can, while neglecting as much responsibility as possible. (The definition of a bad authority)

What it all come down to is this. Church is not meant to be competitive, but symbiotic. Within the body of Christ some have greater privilege, some receive greater attention, some have more responsibility, but nobody should ever get a greater amount of love. While we don’t love everyone the same, but still equal. For we all have our place within the church, with maybe the exception of the very newly saved, every place has a responsibility to the church to go with it. Also, every position is necessary. As undramatic as you may find your place right now, it’s often has negative results when you blow the responsibilities of your position. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Body of Christ part 5

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” -1 Corinthians 12:20-21

Humanity has a long history of self exaltation. A common yet childish way of doing this is by excluding or demonizing someone else we have no desire to have in our inner circle. Take the times of Jesus for instance. The tax collectors were some of the most hated of the hated by the Jews. They were seen as siding with their oppressors, and betrayers of their own people. Individuals who deserved to be condemned in their eyes. Yet, Christ chose one of them to be one of his disciples. (Luke 5:27-32) The Samaritans were gentiles that were so scorned by the Jews so much that they typically traveled around their territory rather than through it, even if it added days to their journey. Despite the fact, that the Samaritans were following Jewish belief at the time. Yet, Jesus made a point to make a mission trip to the land of Samaria. (John 4:1-42) People really haven’t changed much over the past 2000 years, even within the church. We continue to be so very un-Christ like regarding the undesirable  Much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, some church people think their righteousness gives them the right to look down upon people and say “we don’t need you or your talents.” With complete ignorance of the fact, that we fail at righteousness with moment we take pride in it. (Psalm 59:12 & 69:26-28) If they were really so righteous then they would want to help not condemn them. Ultimately leading the body of Christ towards completion, rather than keeping it an amputee. 

looking down upon people we see as unrighteous is sinful
‎"It is easy to know that 'there is a way somewhere,' and even perhaps to know that others aren't on it... But this knowledge is useless unless it helps one find the way. If it merely becomes a standard of judgment, a means of showing up others and judging them for having lost their way, it is no use to anyone."  -Thomas Merton

How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? -Numbers 23:8

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. -John 3:17

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Body of Christ part 4

a body made up of one part
Five Foot Zero

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?
1 Corinthians 12:17-19

Where would the church be if there were no diversity indeed? Maybe it’s just as easy to ask where is the church, right here and now. With this passage, we are starting to get into the why of all this. Paul did not call this concept of unity in diversity the body of Christ arbitrarily. It’s because the church is one of the ways that  Jesus reveals himself to the world. Let’s face it. There is no way that any lone person could be everything that Jesus was, but when we bring our many different Christ-like qualities together in seamless selfless unity, we can get far closer than we ever could apart. That won’t happen when we focus on select aspects of holiness rather than all of it. That won’t happen when we make it all about us and expect the rest of the church to center everything around our needs alone as if we are the definitive standard of what’s needed. It’s all centered around Christ for a reason, we fail as a church when we stray from that. When we fail as a church we just end up painting  Jesus in a negative light, and the result of that is turning this hurting world away from him rather than towards him. Separately we have done so little, but together by God’s spirit we could do so much. For that to happen, the individual is going to have to think of someone other than self. (1 Corinthians 12:7)

“We’re all in this together if we’re in it at all.” -Johnny Cash

“We don’t have it all together, but together we have it all.” -Unknown

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Body of Christ 3

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 
1 Corinthians 12:15-16

These verses illustrate what happens when a church lacks diversity. The present day church certainly knows what to do with some select skills and talents, but has little desire to do anything with what they have never used before. If someone lacked those select skills, yet possessed something else, they wouldn’t exactly feel welcome, or as if they belonged. Which just reenforces the inherent lack of diversity. When we exclude certain skills and talents, we are just amputating the body of Christ. That doesn’t bode well at all for outreach, and evangelism efforts at all. 

a body needs all it's parts, not many of the same
Unbalanced Body
A hand breaking free from the rest of the body

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Body of Christ: Part 2

the church should drink from the fountain of his spirit to stay together
The Fountain

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.-1 Corinthians 12:13

The body of Christ means unity in diversity, but unity in diversity is not a concept that humanity naturally lives up to. People tend to only associate with those who think, feel, act, and look as they do in order to shield themselves from a wider world. So how do we unify a naturally diverse people? The answer would be the Holy Spirit. Only by the guidance of God’s Spirit can we ever truly unify the inherent differences that’s found in the human race. That is what Paul is driving at early on the passage with verse 13. Also keep in mind that this Passage does not stand alone. It is part of a broader passage that includes all of chapters 12-14 about gifts of the spirit. The Body of Christ being a product of those spiritual gifts coming together. While many churches can achieve unity without the spirit, it is at the expense of diversity. When a church tries to diversify without the spirit, unity suffers for it. For only the spirit can curtail the pride, arrogance, and selfishness that inspires people to make it all about them and their needs and wants alone. If either side of this sounds familiar then it’s a strong sign that there is a great lack of spirit in your church.  

 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. -Ephesians 4:1-6

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Body of Christ

The body of Christ is made up of the bodies of all his followers
One Body, Many Parts.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 the apostle Paul defines a model for the church with a rather famous and poetic passage known as the Body of Christ. Theologians define this concept as Unity in Diversity. Which basically means that it takes many different talents and skill sets working together to accomplish the ongoing mission of the church. A concept that centers around Jesus, and how his followers work and relate to one another. But honestly, how many churches can really say they live up to this lofty concept? Over the next several posts we will be taking a detailed look at the idea.

verse 12 - Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ

verse 14 - Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

verse 20 - As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

verse 27 - Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What is Church?

the church is about people, not a building
Straying from the blueprint

Let’s have a look at the word itself. The English word "church" has a dual meaning; it can refer to either the building or the people. I know of no other belief system like it, there is always separate words for it’s followers, and their house of worship. There is good reason for this though, for when we see the word in the Bible, it can originate from one of two different Greek words. One refers to a physical structure, the other to a gathering of people. The curious part is that the gospels almost always uses the word for building, but the other books of The New Testament always use the word for people. Why this shift in perception? Well let’s look at one of the few time Jesus used the word for people rather than building. 

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. -Matthew 16:18 niv

Clearly,  Jesus shifts his focus to the future tense here. Keep in mind that the New Covenant did not officially become instilled until after his crucifixion. When God’s spirit left the temple (building) of the old covenant (Mark 15:37-39) and began to inhabit the temple of the New Covenant, which is his people. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) In my previous post we talked about institution verses people, but as you can see they should be utterly intertwined under this covenant. If the institution of church turns on people, it is basically turning on itself. No wonder Jesus said he came to save the world, and not condemn it. (John 3:17) An idea that the church should take a long hard look at.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Beyond Reproach?

worshiping the institution, not the God it represents

       Not long back I read an internet article about the latest church sex abuse scandal. In it, the writer raised the question of weather it was consistent with the churches beliefs to put institution before people. While he made no claims to know the answer, the very idea that people could even raise such questions against the church is disheartening. Yet, not at all surprising. When any institution treats itself as beyond reproach (religious or otherwise) at the expense of people, the damage to their authority is detrimental when ugly truths inevitably comes out. Always more damaging than if they would just own up to the offense and hold the guilty parties accountable.
       The ultimate question I’m working towards is this. Is the church truly beyond reproach, simply because it’s the church? To answer that, let me point out a few details. The time when Jesus got the most angry was in response to what was going on at the temple. (Matt 21:12-17, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:12-25) Throughout Jesus’ ministry, who was he the toughest on? It was the religious authorities, not the common people. So it would seem that Jesus holds the church leaders to a higher standard of responsibility. Which is consistent with Old testament passages like Ezekiel 34:1-6 and Malachi 2:1-10. If anything we should be the ones holding ourselves accountable, not letting others force us to. Who are we to instruct others in the matters of righteousness if we can’t maintain integrity ourselves as Jesus indicates in Matt 7:3-5. 
       If we ever hope to bring real revival to the current church, we must embrace this truth. This is the motivation in which I write this blog, the spirit of restoration; rather than destruction. I bring this up because there is a movement among believers that hold to the idea that the church is just too broken to fix, so we should just scrap it. So let me make it clear that nothing I say here is meant to forward an agendum to dissolve the institution, but rather a hope that it becomes more like what Christ meant it to be . 

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? -Proverbs 24:11-12