Ever since returning from China I have been reflecting on the Pauline metaphor of the Body of Christ. Meeting Christians in China was an amazing experience. I felt love, the Presence of the Holy Spirit, and the most sincere desire of the people to spread the love of Christ among their people and the world. It was a very convicting experience to sit in a church packed to capacity with people who are receiving their faith as the gift that it is. For in my experience, a life without faith is empty no matter how hard we try to fill it. And yet, Christianity and religion in general is monitored by the government and in some ways could be considered controlled—most closely in the areas closer to the capital of Beijing. For this reason, there are some people who on some level doubt the authentic Christian experience of the churches sanctioned by the government and assume that the secret house churches are somehow more Christian. But I wonder, is it possible that in God’s mysterious ways, God is gifting the whole Body of Christ through those government sanctioned churches just as much as we are being gifted by our own churches? And what of other churches with which we have differences? God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor God’s ways our ways (Isaiah 55). Is it possible that God is doing a powerful work even in the members which we see the least in common with?
In the portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church referenced below, he tries to enlighten his listeners on the unity inherent in the Body of Christ. Using the human body as a metaphor, he tries to get them to see that we are an indivisible whole and that despite our efforts to distinguish ourselves as separate from others in the body, this is actual a denial of reality. Furthermore, he warns us to remain humble if we are tempted to think that our part of the body is better than another part for it is to those parts who are not exalted in the world that God gives the greater honor. And as anyone who has ever stubbed their pinky toe knows, if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.
“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. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would 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. And if the ear would 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. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26, NRSV)
Whenever we asked someone from one of the government sanctioned churches how they thought we could help the churches in China, their answers were always the same, “Pray for us.” My heart was moved as I realized that when we pray for them, we are simultaneously praying for ourselves. What is one of the mottoes of the United Church of Christ? “That they may All be One.” Amen to that.
Christ, Where Do I Fit In?
Christ am I Your Hands?
Or the bottom of Your Feet?
Where do I fit in
In Your Body so complete?
Am I one of the exalted parts,
Or a facet barely known?
And where do I fit with the other parts
Since no member is the body alone?
The right hand is not the left hand
Just as the back is not the front
Yet all parts work together
So that no member need be in want
But we are often a body divided
Our ears condemning our eyes
So that apart we miss the Truth of All of You
Not seeing partial truths are total lies
© Copyright 2013 Pedro S. Silva II