The New Testament writings include many metaphors that are used to describe the Christian life, as well as our shared in Christ’s Church. In His teachings, especially the parables He told, Jesus used familiar images to illustrate what He expected of His followers, such as the “light of the world” and “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13-14). Someone has said, “Listening to Jesus was like living in a house full of windows, for one looked out upon familiar things,” such as a farmer sowing seed in different kinds of soil, a shepherd searching for one lamb that had strayed from the fold, a loving father waiting hopefully and patiently for a prodigal son to return home, and a woman sweeping the floor in search of one lost coin (Luke 15:1-15). To illustrate God’s faithful care for His own children, the Master Teacher reminded His listeners how the Creator provides for “the birds of the air,” and how he “clothes the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:25-33).
The apostles, who wrote letters to the young churches, also used images and word pictures, in their writings to illustrate the relationships that describe the essence of the Christian faith, and our life together as brothers and sisters in Christ. The most common metaphor used by the Apostle Paul is the human body, it’s complex and complementary parts, such as cells, nerves, bones, muscles, skin, organs, brain, and blood, as a metaphor for how the “Body of Christ” functions when it is operating properly and healthfully, with its many parts working together as “one body... members one of another,” following the direction of it’s Head. The “Body of Christ,” like our own bodies, is composed of individual and unlike cells that are knit together to form “one body,” with millions of different parts working together in perfect harmony when the body is healthy and functioning properly (Romans 12:4-10; I Corinthians 12:12, 24-27; Ephesians 5:29-30). Millions of Christians around the world, from every race, every tribe, every nation, every culture, every tongue are all members of the “one Body of Christ,” and there is one common language that binds is all together when Christ’s Church is following the directions of it’s Head, and that is the language of love (John 15:12-17; Romans 12:9; I Corinthians 13.).
Every member of the body is important, and God has put every member of the body where He wants it. Every member of the body needs every other member of the body. So it is with the Body of Christ. There is no member of the body we do not need (I Corinthians 12:20-25). In fact, the member we think we need least may be the member we need most! For if we cannot love that member, then our love is not impartial. Our love is not indiscriminate…Jesus asked, “If you love only those who love you… what more are you doing than others?” (i.e. than non-believers – Matthew 5:43-47). CHRIST EXPECTS MORE OF US! This is evident in all the teachings of Jesus. He expects us to give more! He expects us to forgive more! He expects us to serve more! He expects us to love more! He expects a more inclusive love, a love without limit, a love without demand, a love that shows no favoritism, a love that knows no boundaries. Of course, it is not only difficult to love like this, it is impossible (i.e. impossible without Jesus..without Him living in us and loving others through us). The Apostle Paul is speaking of Christ’s love and character, when he says “Love is not selfish…love does not insist on its own way…love does not demand it’s own rights…love is patient and kind…love is both giving and forgiving…love is not arrogant or rude…love is not irritable or resentful…love bears all things and endures all things…love never comes to an end” (I Corinthians 13:4-8). This is not love in the ordinary, romantic sense, which is an emotion. No, this is love in action, this is how we treat each other, with kindness, gentleness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, respect, honor. This is “agape” love, the greatest of all spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1-11, 13:13, 14:1). It is the love of God poured into our hearts. It is the unconditional love for others, made possible by the Holy Spirit at work within us, seen supremely in the love we have for one another as members of the Body of Christ (Romans 5:5, 12:9-10, 14-21; I Thessalonians 49).
This kind of love is A VERB! It is seen in OUR ACTIONS. It us also VOLITIONAL! It is a matter of will. It is a choice. We choose to be kind. We choose to be thoughtful. We choose to be respectful. We choose to be “on the giving end.” We choose to forgive. However, this kind of living and loving IS ONLY POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF “THE RENEWING OF OUR MINDS” (Romans 12:1-2). God is the only one who has the power to change human nature, to change the way we think, the way we feel, the way we act, and the way we react. This kind of loving and living together begins in Christ’s Church, in our shared life as followers of Jesus in the Body of Christ. There is another word in the Greek of the New Testament that describes this shared life in AN UNCOMMON COMMUNITY, and that is “allelon,” most frequently translated “one another.”
In a previous post I referred to many of the places in the New Testament books where this word is used, and how it is used, such as “encourage one another,” “comfort one another,” “accept one another,” “bear one another’s burdens,” “Be of the same mind with one another,” etc. All of these exhortations refer to the many practical ways in which we are called to live together as “members one of another” (Romans 12:5; I Corinthians 12:12-27). This is the message that comes through loud and clear in all of these “one another” passages, and it is a message too many Christians have either chosen to ignore, or chosen to reject: THERE IS NO INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN WHO CAN FUNCTION OBEDIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY BY HIMSELF OR HERSELF!
We need each other! I need you, and you need me! Just as their are many parts of the human body that need each other, so the Body of Christ is made up of many different members, with different gifts, different interests, different points of view, different ways of worship, different ways of serving, different interpretations of scripture. Nevertheless, we all need each other! Liberals needs conservatives! Protestants need Roman Catholics! Charismatics need non-charismatics! I encourage you to read I Corinthians 12:12-27. Meditate on every verse, and open yourself to the Holy Spirit. Listen for the voice of God. Lay aside some of your own preconceived ideas, opinions, personal preferences and prejudices. Then tell me that the scriptures are your authority for what you believe, for your character and conduct, but you are not in agreement with the Apostle Paul (the master interpreter of the mind of Christ) and therefore there are some who have been baptized into the Body of Christ you will not accept, you will not love. I say to you what Paul said to the believers in Rome, “By the grace given to me I say to you: Do not think of yourself more highly that you ought to think, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). Furthermore, I admonish you, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Remember, “We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13). No member of the Body of Christ is superior or inferior, more important or less important than any other member, in God’s sight (I Corinthians 12:22-23).
Finally, all Christians “…should work hard” (works of love) at creating unity, harmony, and peace in the Body of Christ. This is what our Lord prayed for (John 17). This is what He is still praying for! This is why we have all of those passages in the New Testament, in letters written by the apostles to the churches they had founded, pleading for and praying for unity and for peace in Christ’s Church, such as: “I appeal to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another, so that there may be no discord (no divisions) among you, and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (I Corinthians 1:10) – “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) – “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16) – “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:10).