Let that sink in for a moment.
Keep in mind that by body, Paul is referring to the ENTIRE body of believers, not just my church or your church, but all believers in all parts of the globe.
Look around. What are unbelievers seeing? Is what they are seeing drawing them to Christ or making them want to run in the opposite direction?
So often, we get this really wrong. We don't treat each other with gentleness or kindness or patience. We want to be right more than we care about the other person. We dutifully do "good" deeds, but our love is missing. The unbelieving world notices.
If this is so very important, not just within the body but in drawing others to Christ, why do we mess this up so much? Why do we do the equivalent of cutting our own flesh on a fairly regular basis?
As we were discussing unity in class the other week, one of the women piped up with this insightful comment. She said, "Maybe the reason it's mentioned so often is because God knew how hard it would be for us."
Of course, she was right. Unity is vital, but it's also hard because it involves dying to ourselves and being humble.
And because it is so important and we are so human, satan targets it. This isn't unusual because he often tries to take the gifts God gives us and warp or destroy them.
He whispers lies in our ears and manipulates circumstances so we start to view our fellow brothers and sisters warily, like they are the enemy. He incites anger and hurt, and then he hides behind a human target. So instead of slicing down the true enemy, we slice into each other.
This past week our study was the first half of Ephesians 4. This passage is often used to discuss spiritual gifts, but it is also a powerful treatise on the subject of unity within the body.
It tells us how to deal with each other effectively in verses 2 and 3: with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love.
A few verses down in verse 11, it lists the various areas of service in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It then gives in verse 12, the reason for these gifts: to equip the saints (believers) to go out and serve and to build up the body (church).
I know in my own life, it is so easy for me to get my eyes off that target. I can start to worry about if I am doing a good job teaching; if the ladies in my class like what I teach or how I teach; if my class is popular and growing or if it is shrinking. Being human, it's so easy to make my gifts all about ME. It's not, though. The only reason I have any spiritual gifts at all is to equip and build up other believers.
In verse 13, we find the goal of building up the body - to attain unity of the faith, knowledge of Christ and become mature in our faith.
One of the aspects of maturity in a believer is found in verse 15 - "speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ."
It's hard to speak the truth in love. By personality and by gift mixes, we usually fall on the side of mercy or justice. Truth without love is harsh and alienating. I know a lot of Christians who speak truth but without love, and it only drives people away from Christ. Love without truth isn't really love, though. I also know a lot of believers who are so afraid of hurting someone's feelings, they refrain from speaking truth, causing a deeper wound by what they don't say. "Faithful are the wounds of a brother." It's a sign of maturity when we can do both - speak truth and do it lovingly.
Finally, in verse 16, we get this wonderful picture of the body working together as it is supposed to.
"From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
Each joint, every part - fitted together. Each tendon and joint is important for the whole functioning of the body. It's like when you get a blister on your pinky toe. Most of the time, I never think about my pinky toe. It seems so small and unimportant, but if I get a blister on it, even though it's a tiny wound on a tiny part of my body, my WHOLE body is effected.
So it is with the body of Christ.
When we are working together in unity, we are a force to be reckoned with - think of the first century church! When we are working together in harmony, we grow and build ourselves up in love.
When we treat each other with love and kindness and diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, the church becomes the glory of God. It shines like a beacon, drawing unbelievers to Christ.
How will you let your light shine today?
~ Blessings, Bronte