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 the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would 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 would 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 the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 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 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.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-21 NRSV
First of all friends, sorry I disappeared on Monday’s #CoffeeTimePrayer, I haven’t been feeling the best. I didn’t want to skip out entirely, so if this is the only devotional I post for the week and it’s a bit short, I hope you’ll understand.
Second of all – God, he’s a funny guy. Today’s message might have reached me sooner had I paid attention to something someone I didn’t like said, but of course I didn’t! So I want to advise you, be on the lookout for unlikely messengers. Because we know God is good, I can only assume he uses these methods to teach us to look for him in the people and the places we don’t want to. A good lesson, but a steep learning curve!
Okay, on to the devotion. First Corinthians as a whole reads a bit like a FAQ. First Corinthians wasn’t actually the first letter Paul sent the Corinthians, but it’s the first one we have; others have been lost. Paul was writing to a church that he had founded some years earlier. That it’s a new church is pretty evident from the letters: they cover a lot of theological and practical ground. In first Corinthians alone Paul touches on divisions within the church, issues with temptation, marital issues, congregational issues. There’s a lot of floorspace dedicated to how to live in a Christian way in a very diverse city. We can gather that Paul was responding to specific concerns and questions. Here was a community who had taken the first steps in faith, and now wanted to know, with varying degrees of desperateness and defiance, how to Jesus.
Our reading in particular unites a few of these concerns. The Corinthian church was filled with division, so much so that at one point Paul actually goes “Wtf?!” (see for yourself: 1 Corinthians 11:22 NRSV). We forget that the church as we know it is the product of centuries of trial and error (and we’re happily continuing this tradition today!) The idea of the church community being one people was entirely foreign to the Corinthians. There was a lot of class division, division between women and men, between slaves and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, and then again between Roman “Gentiles” and the others. Thus Paul’s emphasis on talking about the community like it’s a body, and his emphasis on the fact that everyone – whether you were a foot or an arm or an eye or an ear – was equal within this community of believers. It was a radical concept at the time.
Even more radical was Paul’s notion that this equality had its source in God. “But as it is,” Paul wrote, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” This echoes the creation narrative, don’t you think? This selection isn’t random; it is precise, it is purposeful. Although I’m the first to admit that we all look pretty weird naked, God didn’t just tack on elbows for his own amusement, or those pudgy things at the end of our feet that feel so good when we wriggle them in sea sand. Even the humble butt pimple, in God’s scheme, has its place and its function (though we shan’t dwell on what precisely that function may be).
I don’t know about you, but I find immense comfort in God’s deliberateness, especially when I feel like a butt pimple in Christ’s awesome plan. Last week we spoke about how we need to focus on finding and heeding God’s will as a means to answer that question in ourselves, of where we belong. If we anchor our expectations in circumstances, we will inevitably be uprooted, because circumstances are prone to change, all the more so, it appears, if you are a Kardashian. But if we anchor ourselves in God, this God who was and is and will be, alpha and omega, and generally Awesome Deluxe, we will find purpose and belonging even at our lowest points, because of the one whose purpose we are and to whom we belong.
So fear not, butt pimples of the Body of Christ! “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13 NRSV).