1 Corinthians 12:12-26
This is hands down one of my favorite passages in the whole of scripture. By “favorite” perhaps I mean one that is speaking to me profoundly these days. It’s worth reading in its entirety:
12 For 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. 13 For 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.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If 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. 16 And 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. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The 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.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and 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; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. NRSV
Lots to say here. Lots of ways this passage has been working on me. I talk a little about this stuff in this post about people leaving churches, but I can’t get away from it…
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.'”
For a long, long time I read stuff like that and envisioned a church, or a group within a church, looking at an individual and saying, “ehh, we don’t really need you.” That is at least part of what Paul is saying here, and we should be careful as pastors just cutting folks loose because they’re different than us (though as every pastor knows, some folks seem determined to cause strife and division, and their leaving can be seen as a “blessed subtraction.) But lately, my mind wants to flip that around…
…an individual or a family can’t look at the church and say, “I have no need of you.”
This whole idea where people get mad at what- or whomever, write a letter or social media post, and divorce their community of faith is not. God’s. will. It could be… I mean, it could very well be… that you and your family are God’s gift to the body just as much as the body is God’s gift to you. Look at this passage… it’s all about giftedness. They all have unique gifts that are important to the body, and GOD is the one who so arranged it.
Now, if that’s true, then we, the church, are gifts of God to each other. And sorry, dear church hopper, but when you divorce your church, not only are you pulling the plug on what that body could do for you, you are depriving that body of one of God’s unique and special gifts: the gift of yourself and your family.
Now, a bit of a disclaimer: I do not think it is always wrong to leave a church. If the theology of a church changes so drastically that you wake up one day and think, “Wow. You know, I really don’t believe that…” then it’s time to leave. In the same way, if there is known sin in the leadership that is condoned either actively or by inaction, it’s time to leave.
But “I don’t like the ___________.” isn’t a legit reason to leave. “I’m not getting my needs met” isn’t a legit reason to leave. Various versions of “someone told me ‘no.'” aren’t legit reasons to leave.
The eye cannot look at the hand and say, “I have no need of you.”
Think about it. I know I am.