Early in the COVID-19 crisis, as communities all over the nation reeled from sudden shutdowns and social distancing, I saw a meme I can’t forget. It said, “Welcome, extroverts, to the anxiety introverts experience all the time.”
Read that again. Seems we’ve all felt a bit out of place—#alonetogether, anyone?
Meme-worthy insights aside, the implications of avoiding contact are troubling, even for an introvert like me. No one wants to be seen struggling, pandemic or no pandemic. This instinct goes all the way back to the Garden, when the very first result of sin saw Adam and Eve ashamed—covering themselves up and hiding in the bushes (Genesis 3:7-8), acting out on the separation they now sensed between themselves and God.
Still sensitive to that isolating sense of apartness, when things go wrong in our lives, many of us tend to hide or cover up, till we can be “presentable” for others. But going it alone is a struggle in and of itself. Complicating matters today, for a year now, togetherness has been associated with health risks. It’s easy to feel cut off when everybody’s supposed to isolate. Welcome to the anxiety…
But isolation feels especially devastating in the Church—and for biblical reasons. In Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, we see a picture of unity in body life: just as all the many parts make up one body, all the many members make up one Church. Every part has its own function, and every part belongs to a whole. We’re in this together. There’s no saying, “I don’t need you!”
If a finger is cut off, for instance, it’s still a finger belonging to a body. It’s just disconnected from the life of the body now. What happens when a finger is lost? Well... the body can get by without a finger. The body suffers a disability, but it’ll live. The finger doesn’t do so well on its own, though, does it?
Remember, the apostle Paul isn’t talking about body parts in these passages. He’s talking about people. If we have a healthy relationship with our body, we don’t pretend some parts don’t exist or they don’t belong—even “unpresentable parts” (1 Corinthians 12:23) are given special consideration.
You see, when the parts are properly functioning, there’s no separation. Each part does its part, and the whole functions the way it’s supposed to function.
This is the ideal state of homeostasis for the Church—“the body of Christ” (4:12) Paul talks about in his letter to the Ephesians and elsewhere in Scripture. Here, Paul describes the parts given, by God’s grace, as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, “to equip His people for works of service.” In other words, these parts are designed to build up the other parts, so that all work together for the good of all, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:13).
What does this mean for you? Well, God has placed you in the body, just as He wanted you (1 Corinthians 12:18). So how do you relate with other parts… maybe those you consider “less honorable” (12:23), for instance?
Maybe you’re the one feeling “unpresentable” yourself right now. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the aftermath from this past year, and you don’t want anyone to know. What does it mean to give grace when it feels like you’ve got nothing to give?
What if it’s as simple as letting someone else be an eye to see, or an ear to hear? Every part is indispensable. Without you—without your part in the whole—the body is less than it’s made to be. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Without your part, someone else misses out on being the part God made them to be.
So who are the parts you’re connected to? Can you think of three people you haven’t heard from for a while? We all have a list of contacts in our phones. Pick three of them. Call them. Maybe they’re feeling cut off by pandemic issues or other life situations. Maybe calling this week will remind them they’re not “apart from,” but “a part of.”
In this season of Lent, even as we reflect on the realities of sin and separation in our world, we also look forward to Easter and the fullness of Christ, witnessed in His resurrection from the dead! And we remember, by the power of His Holy Spirit in us, by the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, we are given freedom from sin and freedom to serve. Yes, YOU are given God’s grace, “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
So how has God positioned you to benefit other parts of the whole? As ones who’ve been GIVEN GRACE, we are called to GIVE GRACE in turn.
Who comes to mind when you think of the body of Christ? If God is putting someone on your heart, chances are you’re the one He has in mind to bring His grace to bear in their life. As Pastor Steve challenged us a few Sundays ago, “Will you respond in obedience, or will God have to raise up somebody else to do it?”
To speak with someone about finding your part in the body of Christ here at GracePoint, you can get in touch through the “Ways to Serve” form. Or you can take some time to better understand the ways God has uniquely gifted you to serve through the “Spiritual Gifts Test.” And if you’d still like to dig deeper in reflection this season leading toward Easter, you can download the “Lent Guide” for prayer and consideration about what God might be asking of you right now.
Just think… if everyone cares for everyone, everyone will be cared for. And someone has to go first.