For the past few days I’ve had the privilege of visiting my oldest son, who is attending seminary on the east coast. It’s been fun to be with him and his wife, and to have the opportunity to go to class with him and experience a little bit of what he’s learning. As I’ve done so, I’ve been reminded of how diverse the Body of Christ is - and that’s because there are students from multiple denominations and faith traditions, as well as from multiple states and countries, and ethnic groups. So it truly is a diverse gathering of believers.
The experience has reminded me of something I’ve learned from our own congregation at The Harvest - and that is, diversity can be a strength for the body of believers. I say that because I’ve personally seen how diversity allows us to reach different cultures and communities of this world. However, the other thing I’ve learned about having a diverse body of believers is that we have to actively and intentionally build relationships with each other in order to make it work.
The Apostle Paul sums it up beautifully in 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 when he tells us, “There are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, 'I don’t need you.' The head can’t say to the feet, 'I don’t need you.' In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. In the same way, God has put the body together. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
What Paul is helping us understand in these verses is that, as children of God, we belong to each other - and none of us is better, or less important than the other. This means that within the body of believers, relationships with each other are critical, because they are part of how we stay unified as one body.
Of course this is where we can easily run in to trouble, because it is often challenging to maintain relationships with people who are different than us, or who don’t agree with us. But just because it is challenging doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it. This is made clear throughout the New Testament, as we are told multiple times that, if we belong to Jesus, then we are connected to everyone else who belongs to Jesus. And this connection is supposed to be one based in love, as Jesus Himself tells us that we are to love others as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39).
So we can no longer look at our lives with a self-focus, thinking only about “me” and what I think and what I want. Instead, we have to live our lives focused on Christ as our head, and then actively relating to each other in loving ways that will strengthen “us” as Christ’s body. And we do this because God’s desire is for all of His children to be in relationship with one another so that His body will be strong and ready to do His work.
So today, let's ask God to help us stay humble and remember that we’re not walking through life alone. We are part of a beautifully diverse body that stretches around the world, all pursuing a relationship with God through Jesus. Therefore we need to remember that our attitudes and actions impact that body. Let's ask God to help us be active, willing, loving and joyful parts of His body so that we can strengthen the work He's doing, and help advance His Kingdom.