"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it." - 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
There are some body parts I’d sure like to throw away. Quite often I’d love to be rid of my autonomic nervous system, sometimes my brain, and pretty much every moment of every day I’d love to chuck my entire abdomen out the window. This is not an exaggeration. When one part is acting up, I find myself struggling not to hate it, thereby perpetuating a constant me-vs-my body kind of scenario. When I’m successful at not hating my stomach, most of the time I’m just doing my best to ignore it. Is any of this actually helpful? Not likely. Fighting with my own body parts does nothing to heal them. In fact, holding onto anger actually makes the chronic abdomen problem worse because anger sits in my liver and rots. Those aren’t the exact scientific words for this phenomenon but it’s the truth. A problematic body part is trying to send an important message about the general function of the body or about issues that need addressed in order for the whole body to be healthy. Therefore, ignoring those body parts doesn’t help any more than fighting them. Ignoring my stomach doesn’t fix it. When it is ignored, sometimes it feels the need to scream louder so it can get my attention and I can try something else to help it. Ignoring a problem may seem convenient in the moment, but it never makes it go away. Guaranteed.
I am in a very unique position to understand this passage from 1 Corinthians. I’ve never actually read it literally until now and my physical body has helped me understand the passage so much better. I don’t feel that I belong in the body of Christ. But just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true. My excessive absences and lack of connection doesn’t make me any less a part of the body. Just because I am no longer a “more presentable part” doesn’t mean I am less important to the function and health of the entire body.
The church as a whole has a sad tendency to forget the chronically-ill. It’s easy to have the “I don’t need you” mindset when it appears that the body is getting along just fine without them. But Paul could not be any more clear that those people in the body who appear to be weaker are “indispensable.” We also tend to roll our eyes and ignore the people who ‘act up’, while harboring anger toward them. But Paul says we give special treatment to those parts that we think are less honorable. And just because I am no longer an eye or hand or something desirable like that, doesn’t mean it’s not my job to bring absolutely everything I do have to the table. All our gifts, as small as they may sometimes seem, are God-given and important. Ignoring them or hiding them away causes the entire body to miss something beautiful.
The very next chapter in 1 Corinthians is the famous love chapter. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. We unify the body with love. Unfortunately, we aren’t especially great at love and, as a result, the church as a whole is sick. We’ve thrown out our eyes and ears, choked on our anger, and ignored our pinky toes until we’re blindly hobbling around in pain wondering what happened. Fighting or ignoring our own body parts does nothing to heal them. Holding those parts close, listening to them, bringing them to the healing hand of God, loving them. That is what will heal.
We need to find our hearts again- those ignored, shriveled up love containers – and limp them up to the heart of God crying, “We’re so sorry. Please, fix this.” The fact is, God made us each an integral part of the body and no one is dispensable. If I throw out my abdomen, my body would die. If we throw out the members of the body we see as problematic, we die. We are not living in the healthy unity that God desires. We are sick, the kind of sick that only love can heal. I truly believe God sees it, and grieves. When will we?