Thursday, December 30, 2010

Maybe We're Elbows

I've been thinking a lot lately about the biblical metaphor of the church as a body. Paul tells us very clearly that all parts of the body are needed in order for the body to be healthy. The apostle makes this clear in I Corinthians 12.

I Corinthians 12:12-20, "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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should 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 should 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 be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 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 parts, yet one body."

I find verse 18 to be particularly encouraging. We see that God Himself did the arranging of the body. Considering that this passage falls in the broader context of the use of spiritual gifts, we can take comfort in the fact that God has determined which body parts are which. In other words, it is God who dispenses spiritual giftings. This means that as believers we all have exactly the gifts that God wants us to have.

This falls nicely in line with the fact that Christ is the Head of His church. We all know that the head controls the other parts of the body. In the church, the Head (Jesus) tells all the other parts what to do and gives them the ability to do it.

What does our Head desire that we do? His desire and command is that we serve others within the church family. After all, Jesus left us an example when He said that He came not to be served but to serve. Whatever our gifts, we as the body must use these for the betterment and edification of the church family.

What body part am I? What are you? I'm being a bit silly here, but maybe we should think of ourselves as elbows. Elbows aren't particularly nice looking and they get dry easily; if we think of ourselves this way it might help us be humble.

Despite their homeliness, elbows are important to the life of the body. Just go through an hour without using one of your elbows. It's nearly impossible. Regardless of who we are, the church needs us and we need the church. The church even needs its elbows.

Of course, Paul also says in I Cor. 12 that the body wouldn't function if we were all the same body part. Therefore, let's not all be elbows. Instead, let's trust Christ to determine what parts we actually are. Let's just be sure to think humbly about ourselves. We are indeed needed by the church. We are important. We're just not important enough to think highly of ourselves.


Steve Scott said...

What if you're a rejected organ after a failed transplant? Is that a legitimate member of a body? Where does such a member go to find a new body?

Eric said...


This is probably too simplistic, but I think you look for a church body where you (the rejected organ) are needed and will be encouraged to function as you can to help the body.

Joel Zehring said...

I think my wife has gifting as a discerner. Perhaps this makes her a kidney?

She's had a rough time expressing this gifting, because people tend to interpret her thoughts as criticism.

There's plenty more in her specific case that could be unpacked, but my main point is that there's so much more to the body that just the Sunday morning parts.

Eric said...


It really is a problem that many in the body are given almost no opportunity to exercise their gifts during the gathering. Instead, it seems that they are expected to serve outside the gathering. This is nothing less than absurd. If the shape of the gathering hinders the use of spiritual gifts, then something is wrong with the gathering itself.