Members of One Another
I wanted to take just a minute to thank the people who lead us in worship every Sunday. Our worship team. They do such a great job. They’re here before anyone else on Sunday morning rehearsing. They’re listening to music and rehearsing on their own throughout the week, all to help us “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise” (Ps 100:4) as the Psalm says. But they’re also growing together as a team. They learn to listen to one another. To come in and out in ways that complement one another. To take the diverse instruments that are played up here and create one sound that ebbs and flows as the song requires and the Holy Spirit leads. Just last week, as the team came back up after the sermon, and I was still up here praying, Gregg caught my eye as I finished the prayer and mouthed “one song?” Normally we do two after the sermon, but it was getting late. I don’t know what the problem was, but it wasn’t my fault. Anyway, I nodded “yes.” And without yelling “We’re skipping a song and going right to the last one!” The team as one skipped a song and moved to the last one. It just happened. But you know, none of their hard work would matter if it weren’t for Takis and Randy and Dave and David, the sound techs up in the sound booth. We only notice them when a microphone isn’t on at the right time or if something makes a bad sound. And what about Ruth on the computer. If she were to decide not to show up and not tell anyone, we wouldn’t have anyone to project words on the screen for all of us to follow. We’d all be staring at our feet mumbling.
It takes time together learning to play together as much as time alone mastering an instrument, piece of sound equipment, or vocal ability to really put together a worship team. And that is what they are. They’re a team. The parts are interchangeable as people slide in and out due to schedules and illness and things like that. But everyone contributes. Everyone has a part to play. And without each person doing her or his part, the rest of us struggle to worship. So let’s all say a big thank-you to our worship team.
Music is an interesting thing. Take any song and break it down into its individual parts: drums, bass, melody, harmony, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, percussion, banjo, harmonica, spoon, whatever, and any one part alone may sound kind of cool, kind of interesting, but it is each part working together, each instrument doing its part, that makes music. A single finger on a piano can play a note, but it takes ten fingers, two wrists, two forearms, two elbows, two shoulders, two feet, working with one brain, to play a song.
And that’s exactly what Paul tackles in Romans 12. Today we’re starting our fall sermon series, “One Another.” For nine of the next ten weeks we’re going to be looking at that phrase, “One another,” in Scripture. We’re going to talk about what it means to … and after I say each word, I want you all together to say, “One another” … so we’re going to explore what it means to FORGIVE … and CONFESS TO … and PRAY FOR … and SERVE … SPUR ON and ADMONISH … and ENCOURAGE … and BEAR … and finally LOVE one another. Today we’re looking at the words of Paul in Romans where he reminds us that we are members of one another, and he uses the illustration of the human body to make his point. So turn in your Bibles to Romans 12:3-8, or find it in your Bible app, or if you don’t have either, you can follow along on the screen.
The Bible uses lots of different images for the church. A temple put together with living stones, which are the individual people. The bride of Christ, a family, a lampstand shining brightly in a dark world. But the most common picture for the church in the Bible is that of a body, with Christ functioning as the head of the body. Think about your body for a minute. When it is healthy, it is a unified whole made up of lots of very different moving parts, each playing a specific but very different role in the overall life of the body. A hand looks nothing like a leg, but both are very important. Without legs, it’s hard for a body to move. Without arms, it’s hard for a body to stay balanced, to grasp things, to hug someone. A kidney looks very different than a liver, but both are critically important. A heart looks very different than a lung, but you can’t survive, at least for long and without assistance, without either. Some parts can be easily seen. Other parts, those below the skin, can’t be seen without special equipment. But it’s the parts that cannot be seen that the body cannot survive without. You might not move very well and might have difficulty doing some things, but you can survive without a toe, without a finger, even without an arm or a leg. But you can’t survive without a heart, without a liver, without a stomach or intestines. Those inside, hidden parts that no one ever sees are pretty important. Sever the head, and the body dies immediately. Sever a church from Christ and it may continue as an organization, but its dead inside. When you think about it, the human body is a pretty amazing thing. We truly are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14) as the Psalm says. And I think it’s no mistake that the image Paul goes to the most in thinking about the church is the image of the human body. He tells us in 1 Corinthians “You are the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). But for a body to function well, the individual parts that make up the whole have to work together and have a mutual understanding of what each part is responsible for. As the body of Christ, there are three things we must each understand if we as a body are to operate well.
The first is that I must have a right view of myself. Look at V. 3. Now, there are two equal but opposite errors we can fall into as we think about ourselves. The first is for any one of us to think too highly of ourselves. Notice that it doesn’t say “don’t think of yourself highly.” It says “don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.” You are fearfully and wonderfully made, adopted as a child of God, friend of Christ and a member of Christ’s body. The problem comes not when we each recognize that we are in fact important to God, but when we think more highly of ourselves THAN WE OUGHT TO THINK. When we assume that we are more important than another.
Paul is warning us not to think too highly of ourselves, but he isn’t calling us to take an incredibly low view of ourselves either. What he is calling us to do is take an accurate view of ourselves: human beings who are created in the image of God. Every human being, because of that, regardless of race or creed, is created in the image of God and worthy of our love. But we are also sinners in need of grace. And we are valued enough that God chose to become like us in the person of Jesus Christ, and not only that, he chose to die for us on the cross of Jesus Christ because he loves us and wants us to return to a relationship with him. When I take a right view of myself, I am neither puffed up with pride nor brought low in false humility. Instead, I am filled with true humility, understanding that as a human being created in the image of God I have value, but my life is marred by sin and I am in need of grace. And I am in awe that I am so loved that God himself was willing to die for me. That is a right view of self. Not traveling to either extreme, but balanced, viewing myself as God sees me.
You see, both the overtly proud person and the person filled with false humility both make the same mistake: they are both still thinking about themselves, one too highly, the other too lowly. C.S. Lewis says that the truly humble person, isn’t someone who thinks less of herself, but someone who thinks of herself less. It is the person who is simply very concerned about others. When I take a right view of myself as I am in Christ, loved, cherished, in need of forgiveness, and amazingly, forgiven, I am set free to take the right view of us. Look at Vv. 4-5.
There are three characteristics of the body of Christ that Paul highlights here. The first is our unity. We “are ONE BODY in Christ.” Many of you have heard me say this before. Unity does not mean sameness. That’s uniformity. Everyone looks alike. Everyone talks alike. Everyone has a similar background. Sports teams wear uniforms so that they all look alike. Not so in the body of Christ. The body has a common goal, to make disciples of Jesus. We are all supposed to love with the love of Christ. And we are all united to the head of the body: Christ. But the individual parts of the body look different and play different roles within the body so that the body can accomplish its purpose. Unity isn’t sameness. Unity is diversity working together toward a common goal.
And that’s the second characteristic of the body of Christ Paul highlights here: our diversity. We AREN’T all the same. “And the members do not all have the same function …” We aren’t supposed to be the same. We have different backgrounds. Different life experiences. Different family histories and different genetic makeup. We aren’t all the same, but we are supposed to allow Christ the head to knit us together, to provide our common purpose and direction and personality as a body, all the while asking each individual part to do what it was created to do.
And that leads to the third characteristic of the body of Christ: our interdependence. Our mutual love and respect for one another. We are “individually members of one another.” Our willingness to work together and love one another, even though we are different. It is as one body consisting of many uniquely gifted parts that we show our interdependence as we depend on one another. In fact, we depend on one another so much that Paul actually says that we are members of one another. We belong to one another. And the pinky toe is just as important as the right bicep. The left kidney is just as important as the heart. So when one part decides they’re going to go out on their own, or aren’t important and thus aren’t going to show up, the whole body is lessened.
I want to try something right now. You each should have gotten a worship bulletin as you came in today. So take out your bulletin and grab a pen or a pencil. If you don’t have one, just trace the paper with your finger as if you had a pen in hand. Now, with your dominant hand, write your name. Pretty easy wasn’t it? Now try this. Write your name with your other hand. Unless you’re truly ambidextrous, that was probably more difficult. You might not even be able to read it. So what would happen if your dominant hand decided not to show up one day. Just decided to go limp and numb for the day? You’d struggle to do a lot of things wouldn’t you? Not just writing your name. You’d struggle to put on your clothes, prepare food, maybe even eat. And going to the bathroom would be a huge adventure. Paul draws the parallel between a human body and the body of Christ, the Church, so closely that you can assume the same is true in the body of Christ. If one part just decided that he or she isn’t needed, or isn’t as talented as another part, and decides not to show up, the body is immediately handicapped. You see, each person in this room is uniquely gifted.
A right view of ourselves leads to a right view of us as a body, and that leads to a right view of each person as specially gifted by God. Look at Vv. 6-8. Now, this list, and the ones like it elsewhere in the New Testament, isn’t comprehensive. They are examples. They do not list every spiritual gift. But the truth is, every human being is gifted in some way with a special role to play. And when you placed your faith in Christ and began to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit gave you some additional gifts that you are to use as you take your place in the body of Christ. Some are great speakers. Others don’t like to speak or be noticed, but they love to serve behind the scenes. You know those snacks out in the lobby don’t just appear out of thin air. Someone puts them there. The cobwebs in the corners of hallways and rooms don’t just disappear. Someone removes them. Children’s ministry, youth ministry, the community meal, the food pantry don’t just happen. Someone has to lead and lots of someones have to volunteer in those ministries. Notice the first two gifts Paul mentions here. Prophecy is the first. That isn’t so much telling the future as it is helping people to understand what God is doing in the world. It’s one of those really visible, really supernatural type gifts. People with special insight into world events and what God is doing in them. And right after prophecy? Service. Unnoticed, behind the scenes work. He places it above teaching, and exhortation, and giving and all the rest. The point is, YOU ARE GIFTED. You have gifts because you are a human being created in the image of God and he has made you good at something. Some really struggle to figure out what that is, but you are good at something. There is no piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit in the body of Christ, whether your IQ is 60, or 80, or 120, or 150. And as a follower of Christ, you have a special set of spiritual gifts given specifically to help define your role in the body of Christ. Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell said “There are two great moments in a person’s life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born.” And that “why” you were born? That’s related to your gifts. The things only you can do.
When we first began talking about this merger at Christ Church, I made one thing very clear: it is going to take all of us, every part of both churches, to make this work. And there was going to be a temptation: to think that now that more people are a part of the church, I can stop doing what I was doing. Now, to be sure, there were people in both churches doing too much, but they were doing what had to be done to keep things afloat. When parts of the body don’t do their part, other parts have to work overtime to make up for it. We all need to make sure we are gathering together to worship. We all need to make sure we are giving. We all need to make sure we are serving. Each part needs to do its part. Yes, sometimes one part is injured and can’t do anything for a while. Since we founded Christ Church we envisioned this as a place where those who have been hurt, beaten down, and beaten up by life or by the church can find time and space to heal. But as the healing comes, that part, that person, returns to full functioning in the body, doing its part again.
Orthodox Church officials in Russia discovered in 2008 that one of their church buildings had disappeared. Poof—gone! The 200-year-old building northeast of Moscow had gone unused for a decade, but the Orthodox Church, which was experiencing growth, was considering reopening the church building, and that’s when they discovered their building wasn’t there.
They had to get to the bottom of this. After investigating the matter, the church officials did not blame aliens from outer space for the missing structure. Rather, they said the perpetrators were villagers from a nearby town, whom they said had taken and sold bricks from the building to a businessman. For each brick, the thieves received one ruble (about 4 cents).
This two-story church facility did not go from being a building to not being a building in one bulldozing stroke. Rather, the bricks were apparently chiseled out one by one by lots of people. In the same way, some churches—built not of bricks but of “living stones,” that is of Christians—are not reduced in one fatal stroke but rather by Christians one by one choosing not to be involved. Stay home and watch a TV preacher. Read the Bible and pray, but don’t mess with the organized church. Do your own spiritual thing. Each decision means one less living stone. In the end, the church, intended by God to be the display of Christ’s glory, is chiseled away. But when each person gets involved, we build a holy temple in the Lord made up of living bricks, where Christ is glorified. May this be a place where Christ, and Christ alone, is glorified.