Romans 12:1-8 (NRSV)
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Christian Artist Twila Paris sings a song entitled, "How Beautiful is the Body of Christ." Some of the lyrics go like this
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so others may live.
How beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread to the sons of earth.
How beautiful is the body of Christ.
Today's culture refers to the church as an institution. Many feel we are an institution that promotes intolerance, hypocrisy and old fashion views. I hope that the church is none of these. There is already enough intolerance, hypocrisy, and misaligned sentimentality for the past in our culture right now.
What the world needs is a church, as Twila Paris sings, which reflects a God of mercy, hope, and transformation. St. Paul calls the church the body of Christ and gives us an image that better reflects what we should be.
4 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. 5 The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, 6 let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't. If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; 7 if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; 8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. (Romans 12:4-8, The Message)
Since we are getting ready to enter the fall football season, maybe you'll find this paraphrase helpful:
For the Team is one and has many players, and all the players of the team, though many, are one team...Indeed, the team does not consist of one player, but of many. If the defensive end would say, 'because I am not the quarterback, I do not belong to the team,' that would not make him any less a part of the team. And if the right tackle would say, 'Because I am not a wide receiver, I do not belong to the team,' that would not make him any less a part of the team. If the whole team were tackles, where would the cornerback be? But as it is, the coach has arranged the players of the team, each one of them, as he chose. If all were quarterbacks, where would the team be? As it is, there are many players, yet one team. The quarterback cannot say to the tackle, 'I don't need you.' Nor can the defensive ends say to the running back, 'we don't need you.' On the contrary...if one player suffers, the team suffers together with him; if one player is honored, the team rejoices with him.
Paul uses the imagery of a body. But the image of team also works well. In order for the team to do well, everyone must play his or her position to the best of their ability. In teams and in the body of Christ, it is important to remember that it takes commitment, service, believing in the impossible and picking one's self up and pushing forward in spite of wounds and failures. I like the words Alexander Irvine places on the lips of the heroine in his novel, My Lady of the Chimney Corner:
God takes a hand whenever he can find it and just does what he likes with it. Sometimes he takes a bishop's hand and lays it on a child's head in benediction. And then he takes the hand of a doctor to relieve the pain, the hand of a mother to guide a child. And sometimes he takes the hand of a poor old creature like me to give comfort to a neighbor, but they're all hands touched by his Spirit, and his Spirit's everywhere lookin' for hands to use.
So what does it take to be God's hands of ministry in the world? Think about it.
Watch the video below to learn how you can be the Body of Christ in your neighborhood:
Alexander Irvine, My Lady of the Chimney Corner (New York, NY: Century Press, 1913).