By Dr. Jim Savage, Riverchase UMC.
Yes it is true, no one is an island. We cannot survive in a healthy way without friends, support, relationships, neighbors, and a supportive church. Jesus said those immortal words about the church: “Upon this rock I’ll build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The body of Christ is not perfect, but we need each others. Paul reminds us of our individual brokenness when he says “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since none of us are perfect, and since we are all broken and in need of love and grace, we should also realize just how much we need each other.
Many people do not attend a church because they say the church is full of hypocrites, or the church is full of politics, or the church is full of snobs. This will be true some of the time, but is not true all of the time. Besides, Jesus calls us to NOT give up on the church as the body of Christ regardless of the problems, failures, or inconsistencies that may arise from time to time.
In I Corinthians Paul uses a great example by speaking about body parts to illustrate how we truly need each other. “If I 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” (I Corinthians 12:19-26).
Paul then talks about various gifts and roles that we might play in this journey of life. It is true that all of us are different. This often makes it difficult for us to like each other, and can also make it difficult for us to work together. We all need our individual “space” and personal times for reflection, and spiritual contemplation, but then we realize again we are in need of “community”. We come to our senses realizing also the call of The Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. We cannot accomplish this commandment by Jesus unless we mix with the community at large. We also need the Body of Christ, The Church for mutual support, prayer support, friendships, spiritually uplifting relationships, instruction, wise counsel, and even some prodding during our weak moments of apathy.
In one translation Paul sums this up very well. “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” Romans 12:5b (NLT).
Paul also gives some very practical advice as we learn to live in community with each other. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:3-6).
So we are faced with this challenge of life to find a good balance between maintaining our personal space with solitude, and continuing to engage the community in community. May God guide us as we learn to live in this ever changing world. May God grant us the wisdom and grace to one day live in peace and harmony as the body of Christ, and as the world at large. It may be impossible in this life, but our standards and goals should not be lowered just because the goals are so difficult. May God bless you as we learn “We Are Better Together”….