[This is Part II of a series on Romans 12:3-8. Part I is here.]
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5
Part I: Many members and functions; one body.
Unity in diversity is the beautiful picture here. Both physically and spiritually, many parts make up the whole. Each unique, specific, necessary, and diverse part fits together to make one unified healthy whole. Without the eye to see the danger and relay it to the brain which tells it to the feet which run, the whole body is in jeopardy. (see I Cor. 12:12-27)
God’s purposes are sovereign…the diversity of gifts is necessary to accomplish His unified purpose.
This is the DNA of all creation. Within the cosmos, the earth cannot say to the sun, “I don’t need you,” or to the moon, “please move other there.” No, our very existence would cease; it must be precisely as God ordained, and He calls it “good,” as when He marveled at the diversity of creation in the very beginning.
There is only one body. Not two or three. Haven’t we all learned through trials that it’s critical to the health of the whole body that we not take up any offenses, feel like we don’t fit in, and look for some other body? Our enemy is skilled at setting up counterfeit bodies, like cults or gangs, that mimic some of the good “belonging” feelings of the one true body of Christ and so ensnare the unsuspecting or the weak, but are actually dangerously unhealthy. Our membership has only one place to be redeemed and that is in Christ.
“…and these members do not all have the same function…” And oh, the trouble in keeping the parts where they belong! My kids used to be silly with Mr. Potato Head and stick an ear where an eye should go or feet on top of his head. Do you recall the Mr. Potato Head character in Toy Story? He was a jealous, rude, and unfriendly character — precisely our traits when we wish we were mouths instead of hands or feet instead of eyes. May we rejoice in our distinct giftings with humility and understanding.
Part II: Each member belongs to all.
We are mutually dependent on one another. How can we really, humbly know that our gifts are not for any selfish purpose or display, but always for the good of the whole? We have a profound interconnectedness by which we need each other, even the meekest contribution.
It’s no wonder that the section of Romans directly following this passage on gifts is all about love, as that is the key:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10
To love sincerely is to accomplish this “belonging to” with grace and triumph.
A pastor once told it this way:
“A number of years ago I fell and injured my wrist rather severely. It swelled up and got very painful. And the rest of my body felt so bad about it that it sat up all night to keep it company. That is what the body of Christ is to do when one member is hurt.”
We see a moving demonstration of how “each member belongs to all the others” from Christ on the cross as he utters in one of his last moments:
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27
To know that within Jesus’ dying words was this request to live out our Christian experience in fellowship with one another and caring for one another as if they were our very own flesh and blood (and oh, the beauty of His provision for his mother) ~ this is another gift from the cross. Each member belongs to all.
Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others. ~ Augustine
Jesus, we praise you for the privilege of membership in your body, each of us different members. We ask for your grace to keep us functioning exactly as you designed. Help us to honor one another as though we each belonged to the other. Amen.