Friday Devotion from Pastor Maria
Every time we open the Bible, it speaks to us. When we read a passage we’ve known for years, it can speak to us in a new way. Welcome to my life this past Tuesday.
I was attending a continuing education event via Zoom (as one does these days) and the keynote speaker was Dr. David A. Anderson. In his first presentation, he talked about 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, the well-known passage about being the body of Christ, and how all parts of the body are important. He noted that we often start reading at verse 14.
So I flipped open my Bible, and sure enough, I’ve got a little pencil mark where I’ve read this passage to various groups over the years, and guess where I marked to start reading? Verse 14(!), even though the section clearly starts two verses earlier.
Then he read verse 12, where the passage begins: “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
This is what many of us think of when it comes to this passage. The body of Christ – the faith community – is made up of lots of different people serving in the same community. We’re not all the same, but we come together as one in Christ. We each have different gifts and skills, and we work together as a congregation to follow Jesus, reaching out with a voice of hope. And we do, and that is well and good and true.
Then Dr. Anderson read verse 13: “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.”
Now, we don’t live in 1st century Corinth, so I tend to read that verse and think, “Okay, Paul’s talking about different kinds of people… I get it.” And I move on.
But here’s what Dr. Anderson pointed out on Tuesday: when the Apostle Paul writes about Jews & Greeks, he’s talking about race; those were viewed as different races. When he writes about slaves or free, that’s about class, their place in society. And each of those – Jew or Greek, slaves or free – has a different culture. So when Paul is talking about the body of Christ in this passage, he’s not just talking about people with different talents or skills like we usually think of. He’s talking bigger!
Paul is saying that in the body of Christ, we are made one across race, class, and culture. All are part of the body. And Paul puts this in verse 13, so when we read the rest of the passage, we’re reading it through that lens. This is what the people in Corinth were living into; this broader reality of all people being part of the body of Christ, of all people needing each other.
So now, read 1 Corinthians 12:14-27 thinking of race, class, and culture.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 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 stop being part of the body. 17 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? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 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!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 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, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Whoa! Does that speak to you in a new way when you look at it through the lens of verse 13?
Last Sunday, we started our BLESS sermon series, where we’re looking to Jesus for ways we can BLESS our neighbors as we start to emerge from the pandemic. All week long we’ve been Beginning with prayer, each of us praying for five of our neighbors every day. The hope is that by BLESSing our neighbors, we’ll build a stronger sense of community.
This whole passage from 1 Corinthians is about community. It’s about how all people are part of the same body… how God has given us the gift of each other… that we need each other, people of every race, class, and culture. There is richness in diversity. We can learn from each other. We can learn something about God from each other. Life is more full when we do life together.
My daughter is taking a foods class at school, so she’s been making foods from around the world. We have new spices in our spice drawer! Eating is richer and more delicious when we experience new dishes that come to us from other people who eat different things. The same is true of life. Life is more full when we do life together. The life of faith is more full when we do it together.
As you can tell, Dr. Anderson opened my eyes to another layer of 1 Corinthians 12 on Tuesday, and I wanted to share that with you. I hope it speaks to you in some way today.