1 CORINTHIANS 12:12-26
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The 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." 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
Even for the Apostle Paul, it is impossible to speak about the various parts (i.e., individuals with different gifts and callings) of the body (i.e., the church community) without conceding the point that people view one another through a perceived difference in status. Terms like "less honorable," "less respectable," "greater respect," "greater honor," and "inferior member" all point to this reality. It is the reality of appearance.
What appears to be the case for the church community, when they judge one another, is that some roles are more indispensable than others, some roles are more esteemed than others, some roles are more honorable than others, and some roles are more desirable than others. The very way we judge people outside the church -- in the workplace, in terms of salary, in terms of title; at school, in terms of SAT scores, in terms of what college you get into, etc. -- is applied to the church setting. It seems like we cannot help but see people in this hierarchical way.
How do we get out of this quagmire? The Apostle Paul reminds us of a few things: (1) Let us acknowledge that the body (church) has many members/parts. It is impossible for a body to consist of just one part for the simple reason that it would no longer be a body! (2) All the different members/parts are rooted in Christ and in the one Holy Spirit. Therefore, theologically speaking, the intrinsic value of the parts is of equal status since the status-giving source of these parts is the same, the same Christ and the same Spirit. (3) Every member/part is indispensable. There is no such thing as a "dispensable" or a throw-away part, without which we can do without. (4) All members/parts are connected in an interdependent way. Eyes, hands, feet, head, etc. all need each other. (5) Therefore, we cannot live in dissension or with a sense of division. Both the suffering and the rejoicing all shoot through the entire body. As the nervous system in our bodies is connected throughout, the emotional life and well-being of the church is to be connected throughout.
No greater challenge is there than for the community of faith to believe and live out this teaching about the Body of Christ. If we can grow in this area, we have grown indeed!
Let's pray: O Lord Jesus, help us to be your body. Help us to honor one another, help us to see one another as you would have us to see. Tear down the hierarchical way we assess the community of faith. May we honor you by honoring each other, regardless of title, role, gifting, or calling. In your name, amen.