Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On Being the Body

The Bible says that God is at work in the life of all genuine believers in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). But it also says that God is at work in us as part of a larger body which works together to accomplish God's purpose (1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 4:11-16; Romans 12:3-8). But there is a danger of seeing myself or my group as the only people who Christ works through. I can see myself (or me and a few others) as completely independent from the rest of Christ's church, I can follow my own path, with no respect for the beliefs and understandings of Christian leaders or Christian groups of  the past or present. I can become confident of my own knowledge and wisdom, not recognizing its imperfections (1 Corinthians 3:18; 8:1-3; Proverbs 26:12). Or we can require rigid adherence to a particular group, as if that group had a monopoly on all of truth, even though what it requires is far more than the real basics of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:1-9; Philippians 2:1-4). Rather, we need to see ourselves as being part of the larger body of Christ and not confine ourselves to our little corner. Now I am not saying there are not boundaries, places we must draw the line if we are to follow God (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-6; Romans 16:17). But we should not be too quick to condemn others over every detail.

Now the Word of God is the final authority (2 Timothy 3:16,17; Acts 17:11; John 17:17). But if we approach life on a totally individualistic basis, we risk confusing what makes sense to us and what we want with what Scripture says. Nor should we see ourselves as carrying out the work of God alone, but we should work as part of the greater body of Christ wherever possible. The idea of seeing my ministry as a totally independent thing does not fit with Scripture. There is a danger in seeing ourselves as solitary workers totally unconnected to others.  But we should also avoid making the standards of our group the final authority and dismissing everyone outside it. We can see ourselves as the only ones carrying out God's work and reject those who disagree with us even on minor issues. And we can see everyone who does not fit into our program as opposing God. Fundamentally, what I am calling for is an attitude. One that sees ourselves as part of something bigger than ourselves and bigger than our group. To see ourselves as part of the body of Christ that transcends history and geography and our petty divisions. For it is this body that we are ultimately part of if we trust Jesus Christ for salvation.