Unity and Diversity in Christ's Body
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).
© Dr Paul Adams