What do we really believe about the body of Christ?
Our Body is Bleeding
My heart has been broken for the Church lately. Not just for the publicized horrendous sexual misconduct, difficult racial conversations, divisions over policies and preferences ... but also the unbiblical day-to-day divisiveness plaguing the local and global church alike. There is an unsightly underbelly of the body of Christ maiming its own members, and it is disturbing.
Instagram posts cut to the quick.
Strings of 280 characters chew people up and spit them out without a second spell-check.
Factions within our communities slander and cause division.
And the church is part of it.
I've seen far too many Christians recently posting media that builds their own kingdom, tearing down and wounding deeply. Have we lost our capacity to empathize this much? Are we so proud and think ourselves so correct and untouchable that we would sacrifice another person's heart and wellbeing to make a quippy viral statement?
It's so easy to keep "them" at arms length, isn't it? Whoever "they" are for you and I, if we don't want to be around them we don't have to, and it keeps us insulated from their hurt and pain. And we're all so guilty of it.
What does the Bible say about the body of Christ?
Paul is clear in his letter to the church in Corinth that the body of Christ is one unit made up of individual parts. Just like the human body He created in His image, the body of Christ is made up of many members with different gifts and purposes that work together to glorify and do the will of the Father. The local church functions as one iteration of this body, and the global Church another.
Scripture is also clear about how we are to handle disagreements, and it doesn't include spewing hatred on a public platform or berating others for our cause and preferences to win out. There is a difference in the way we fight as Christians for the image of God and the health of the body of Christ. When we should be standing up for the oppressed, we're instead consumed with winning the argument, having our preferences and lifestyle curated to our liking, and pointing out "them". How is this effective to achieve any end?
How are we working together as the body of Christ?
Do we, as members, care for each other to see the body flourish in good health?
Do we care for the parts who are suffering?
Do we rejoice in seeking good and wellbeing for all our members?
If one part of the body is ill, the whole body, including our own selves, suffers. How can we possibly be a beacon of light in our community as a healthy body, functioning for the glory of God if we are not only unconcerned with the illnesses it carries, but are actively seeking to wound it and leave it a bleeding body on the floor?
If we are to be any kind of light to a dark world, preferences must be laid aside. Tertiary theological issues must be laid at the foot of the cross. "Us" and "them" must cease. Our defensive fight, flight and freeze responses must become responses of quiet rest and fervent work.
"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. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. ... But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 24-26
Christian, you and I were never commanded to agree with others about everything. Our whole lives inform everything about us and our convictions. But our ultimate guidepost is Christ and His word. We aren't commanded to agree, but we are commanded to love and seek unity regardless of preference, identity, policy, platform, or politics. And that doesn't look like backbiting, sarcasm, slander, gossip, undermining, retribution or alienation. As Paul tells the members of the Roman church,
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:9-21
How are you outdoing your enemies and brothers and sisters in Christ in love?
But They're Wrong and I'm Angry
If there's one thing my time in counseling has taught me, it's that our feelings do not validate or dictate our behavior. Anger, disagreement, hurt, concern, sadness, resentment, bitterness, angst ... our feelings are valid because the world is broken, and God created us to experience emotion and feeling. But our feelings don't validate sinful behavior. And treating "them" with disdain, contempt, malice, or degradation is sinful. It isn't a viable option in the kingdom, and we're maiming the body of Christ, our own flesh and blood, when we do.
Jesus doesn't need us to try and hold on tighter to His commands than He does. If He can express love, compassion and justice in the midst of the degradation of His creation, so can we. Showing love and kindness to someone doesn't mean we agree with them on every subject. All it means is that we are recognizing others are made in the same image of God that we are, and frankly, we're doing what He told us to do. We cannot be more concerned with what others in our groups think of us than we are with loving others the way Christ commanded us to.
It's okay to experience anger. It's okay to disagree vehemently with someone, or be hurt or offended at a slight. These feelings are natural as humans. But what are we doing with those hurts and convictions? Righteous anger pushes us to seek justice and truth. But do we also love mercy? Do we walk humbly alongside Jesus? Does our anger push us toward Him in lament and help, or does it push us toward Instagram Stories, Twitter and gossip?
This is a call to the body of Christ for healing. It doesn't matter what side of the isle, argument, platform or justice issue we're on right now. We must stop maiming our own body. We must also keep fighting for truth and for the oppressed, but we have to start doing so in a manner that brings life, not death.