Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Paul shakes his head wearily when he gets the word that First Church, Corinth, is fighting again. Those people argue about everything--love, marriage and sex (1 Corinthians 7:1-40); where to buy ground beef (8:1-13); how high your hands should go during praise choruses (14:1-39); and how often to pass the offering plate (16:1-4). Paul doesn't mention it, but doesn't it seem likely they also argued about whether to sing the third verse, have Sunday night church on Mother's Day, or pay $50 a week for a little ad in the Saturday paper?
Paul writes to make it clear to these quarreling, bickering people that we're all in this together: "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body" (v. 12). He draws a peculiar picture of feet and ears wanting to be independent: "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you'" (v. 21). We may think that differences keep us from being unified, but in Paul's analogy, unity is found in diversity.
Paul wants the church to realize that the ones who seem less important are no less essential "so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other" (v. 25).
Then Paul says something amazing to this contentious church: "You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it" (v. 27). Separately, none of us live as Christ, but together, we can be Christ's body. We are Christ to one another: Christ's hands open to embrace God's people; Christ's ears listen for God in our sister; Christ's feet make our way to care for God in our brother; Christ's lips speak God's grace to one another; Christ's
We recently received the first photograph of my new niece, Kristyn. (What's the deal with Y's in girl's names?) The note with the picture says, "Big sisters Bryn and Paityn are crazy about her." It's not my place to predict sibling rivalry. In the delivery room picture, Kristyn's mother has the look of winning a new car after being hit by that car. Kristyn's father, my brother, has a goofy grin on his face--like he just won his third car but still doesn't know how to drive. Kristyn, all seven pounds and three ounces of her, looks unconcerned. Her blue eyes seem confident that she will scream for whatever she needs and receive it.
The most striking thing about the picture is her complete dependency. She lives in absolute reliance on the love of her parents, grandparents, sisters, friends, church, and even uncle. And we are at her mercy, too. As she grows up, she will be tempted to believe she doesn't need anybody. If she's wise, she'll learn that we're all in this together. We need each other to know God's love, live as Christ and be the church.
Brett Younger is associate professor of preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.