Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 23 June 20:
Ephesians 4:2, 3, 15,16 — Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…. Speaking the truth in love… grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Take some time today to seriously meditate upon Ephesians 4 and your role as a unifier, a reconciler, a peacemaker, and an equipper within the body. Compare Ephesians 4 with John 17 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Jesus prayed for our unity in Him, and He gave us the ministry of reconciliation as His ambassadors. The mark of individual maturity is Christ-like character that promotes peace and love with God and with others. The mark of a mature church is unity in Christ, where the members are “bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” You cannot mature as you have been called outside of, or disconnected from, the body of believers, and the church cannot mature unless the members are an encouragement to one another and build each other up in Christ – “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
However, anyone who has been an active member of a church congregation knows that churches always have people in them who are hard to get along with. Some people are judgmental, caustic, rude, egotistical, you name it. In fact, some people don’t go to church simply because they don’t want to be around “hypocritical” people. However, consider Paul’s comments on the matter –
– 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 — 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 one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should 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 should 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 be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 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 parts, 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 parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Not only does Paul make it clear that God made you to be connected to a church body and to play a specific role within that church body, he also points out that the “unpresentable parts,” of the body are just as essential to the health and life of the body as the more presentable parts. The unpresentable parts are those people who might be called slang, profane names referencing private parts of the body – “He’s a real a……!” These are people you’d rather not expose to the public. So, what does Paul say about these people? The church can’t say, “I have no need of you.” The weaker (less mature and less agreeable) members are indispensable to the body, and the more mature (presentable) Christians are to show greater honor to those they think are less honorable — the mature Christians are to treat them with greater “modesty” (humility and restraint). Of course, let’s not forget that most unpresentable parts think they are presentable, and we often lack the humility to see where our behavior is unpresentable. You too likely receive more grace from others than you realize.
Why are we called to give honor to those within the body who are not honorable? “…that there may be no division in the body, but that members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” In fact, these members of the church are indispensable because God uses them to teach us how to love as He loves — “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:32-36) God knows how difficult some people can be, which is why he put them in your life (your church), so you can grow in love – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)
Your church (like your family) is a schoolhouse for Christ-like character development. If you don’t put in the effort to love those within the church who are hard to love, you won’t learn much about love and won’t have the relationship with Jesus He desires for you. If you quit church, it is like quitting school but with eternal consequences. If you have been the sort of Christian who feels that watching or listening to sermons from home is enough church for you, then you are not only missing the whole point of the church, you have as much life in you and growth potential as an amputated limb.
– Proverbs 18:1 — Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
Are you walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called? Is your church a healthy body with each part working properly, including you? How are you personally contributing to the health and growth of your body of believers?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 June 20: Today, commit to contributing to the health of your church body and growing in Christ-like character as a member of your church family.