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Unity and Diversity in Christ's Body

1 Corinthians 12:14-19
And so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? (NIVUK)

The 'Body of Christ' refers to three different, but linked, entities. It is His physical body which was crucified but then risen and glorified (Hebrews 10:5). It is also His symbolic name for the bread which was broken at the Last Supper; the meaning of the bread we share in communion (1 Corinthians 11:24). It is also Paul's metaphorical title for the church (Romans 12:4-5). As the human body is made up of many different organs and structures, the church is also a living unity composed of people who are diverse in culture, gender, wealth, religious background (Galatians 3:28), and have received a wide variety of spiritual gifting (1 Corinthians 12:11).
God has designed the differences intentionally so that His Body may have many functions (Romans 12:4). The 'club mentality' of the Corinthian church resisted different kinds of people being in the church. They despised the poor and the slaves, even though they were all born into God's family by the same Holy Spirit. Paul's message was that everybody who has been incorporated into Christ should honour every other part of Christ's Body, and their different functions.
Humanly, we tend to feel comfortable with 'people like us', and reject those who are different. But that is a wrong way to think about the diversity of people in the church (ethnic, economic, gender, age and other personal qualities). It is also a wrong way to think about the functions of the church which are powered by the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts. All the Spirit's gifts are needed to establish the church. God places His people, equipped with His gifts, in each local church (and for the benefit of the wider church), by His specific choice and design.
Every believer reading this has been chosen by God to serve Him with abilities given by the Holy Spirit: encouragement, praying with faith, compassion, preaching, helping and evangelism … the list goes on. Nobody has every gift and nobody has none. So where has the Lord placed you? How does He want you to serve Him? What gift(s) has He given to you? It is the responsibility of each believer to honour God by using what has been given; and to honour others in their different roles by working with them as the Lord directs so that He will build His church (Ephesians 4:16).

Father God. Thank You for designing such wonderful variety into the church, and placing each person and gift alongside others so that we may work together for Your glory. Forgive me for the times when I have wanted every believer to be just like me, and have rejected those who are different. Help me to realise that You have placed me just where You want me, to use my divinely inspired abilities alongside other abilities I do not have in order that the church will function properly as the Body of Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams