In 1 Corinthians 12, a passage familiar to many, the church (group of believers) is referred to as a body.
I’ve been pondering that analogy lately. Mostly in thinking about, “what is the purpose of the church?”
When I say church, I don’t mean the building, or even the institution. I mean the church, the body of believers, the body of Christ.
Now, getting back to our question, “what is the purpose of the church?”
The church, to me, seems to have many purposes, including (but not limited to):
- Providing a place for corporate worship
- Providing a place for the preaching/teaching and hearing of God’s word
- Providing a place where people can seek prayer for various needs
- Providing a place for believers to fellowship with one another
I’m sure there are many more and the purpose(s) of the church, but those are a few I came up with off the top of my head.
Lately I’ve been thinking of another purpose. One that I think we probably don’t like to think of or talk about.
Before I get into that, let’s look a little deeper at 1 Corinthians 12.
Let’s look at verses 15-21:
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
Here we can see each part of the body has a purpose. Each part belongs. Each part needs to do its job.
If Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), then it’s pretty safe to say we could think of Him as the head/brain in our body analogy.
The brain sends out signals to all parts of the body to carry out their various functions and responsibilities. I think we can all agree on that.
So, in our analogy, Jesus sends out “signals” for the different parts of the body to follow.
Here’s where things get messy. Sometimes our physical bodies get infected. As far as I know the brain sends out the command for antibodies and blood cells to attack these infections. Don’t quote me. I’m no scientist
Sometimes we find ourselves in sin, or a member of the body is in sin. Something we don’t like to confront or deal with many times. Often times when members of the body reach out in a loving way to help correct sin so that another part of the body can be made whole (just like in our body analogy).
Often times you’ll hear the phrase “don’t judge me” bandied about.
I get it. I do. There are times when people don’t have our best interest at heart and just want to come down hard on us, because well, that’s what they do.
However, I believe there are other times where the Holy Spirit, working through a fellow believer, wants to speak correction into our life. Not to condemn us, but to bring us to a place of wholeness and complete health.
Often times when the “don’t judge me” attitude or phrase is used, people are quick to point out the encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. Let’s examine that passage for a moment.
John 8:7-11 says:
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Yes, Jesus saved the woman, and yes He didn’t condemn, but we usually stop right there. Whether that’s a conscious choice or not, I’m not sure.
And then Jesus makes things quite clear, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”. To paraphrase, “knock it off”. I think we forget that. Jesus was tough on sin, while not condemning the sinner. He loved, but He also spoke the truth.
And I think that’s what He wants from us as a body. He wants us to love, without condemnation, as He loved. But, I believe He also wants to use us to confront sin in a loving way so as to help prevent people from further pain. He wants to and can, by the work of the Holy Spirit, make something beautiful out of our mess.
He, with us functioning in our proper roles and capacities, can make the body whole. And a whole body is necessary for the awesome work He has for us to accomplish – together.