“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.” (I Corinthians 12:12 – 13)
One of the being tenets of Christianity is that it is a monotheistic belief. It gets complicated when you layer on that Triune theology, but the basis is clear – one God. And actually Paul’s example of the one body with many members applies equally as well to One God with many Aspects and Attributes.
Over the years I have had several courses on comparative religions; and since they were at different points in my life, I understood and incorporated that into my belief system over time. It was in seminary when I saw that each religion basis its self on one or more aspects of the Divine. And with that understanding my concept of the Lord God as explained by Judaism grew to incorporate the understanding through Anabaptism and the wider umbrella of Christianity. And “God the Father” became “God the Creator” and morphed to the Lord God; and finally, the best terminology for me became the Divine. There I find Paul’s “One Spirit” that all draw and drink from.
“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?” (Verses 14 – 17)
If we were to take this seriously (and really, why would we not?) we could not exclude anyone from being part of the family of the Divine. Because someone is not “white” they are not part of the family of the Divine? And not part of humanity? Because someone does not speak English as their first language they are not part of the family of the Divine, and not worthy of respect and honor? The Divine as the Creator did not create just one place named Eden, but the whole world – the globe. Perhaps that is why we, as a global society, have not found the Garden of Eden, because it was not just one patch of grass and trees. If the whole world was just one continent with one culture of people, as Paul said that would be denying the diversity that the Divine intended. The Jewish (as the ancient called and chosen people) were not the Divine’s one and only, but the beginning of the family of God.
“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.” (Verses 18 – 25)
Paul’s intent was to help the Corinthians see that believers who might have been new in the faith, less of sure of the belief system, and struggling should not be cast out from the body of believers. Strength of faith is not be used as a criteria of who is and is not worthy. Can we not expand that to all of humanity, all believers, all variations of faith traditions?
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (Verses 26 – 30)
I suspect (and hope, beloved reader) that you are seeing and understanding what I am saying. Here Paul expands his focus from recognizing and honoring those who are different in their backgrounds and firmness in their faith beliefs to include those whose spiritual gifts serve different needs. Each need is important; each member of the family of God is important.
“But strive for the greater gifts.” (Verse 31a)
It would be a misinterpretation to say that Paul in that snippet of a half verse has undone all that he had said previously. The emphasis should be on the striving for gifts of the Spirit. And to desire to be useful to the body and family of the Divine. There is no shame in wanting to be blessed with a spiritual gift. What is not said/included in this passage is that the Spirit knows what the body needs, and will supply that need through members of the body. Rejoice that the Spirit uses you in the way that most fits the need, and fits the strengths & skills that you are endowed with.
May you, beloved reader, be blessed with gifts that build up the body of believers, and may you be built up by the family of the Divine. Shalom & Selah!