by Rev Victor Teo
Based on 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
Some time ago, in a little village not too far away from us, there was a little church. This church was beautiful. Every weekend, when anyone passed by the church, beautiful music can be heard playing from the sanctuary. Inside, people can hear the loud laughter and praises, the joyful singing and the clapping; it was a vibrant church. Yet week after week, there were two people who constantly sat outside the church. They didn’t want to go in. The first person was Little Feet. He was reluctant to go into the church because he felt that he did not belong to the church. All he ever does is to ferry people from one place to another with his feet. And nobody gets to see him. He is always covered up, always wrapped in socks and shoes that sometimes also smell. He bears the weight of other people but is often unappreciated.
Little Feet resents being the feet. He despises his role. In fact, he wants to be like the Hand; the visible hand that everybody gets to see; rominent and not hidden. The hand who holds the shiny microphone in front of everybody at service. The hand who claps and is adorned with pretty rings and nice watches. Little Feet desires to be the hand and not the feet any more.
The second person who did not want to go into the church was Little Ear. Little Ear was angry because he was always standing by the side and not in front. Why was he always sidelined? Why can’t he lead? Why can’t he give the vision and direction to the body? Instead, Little Ear must always listen to what other people have to say. How unfair! And the worse thing is, people don’t appreciate him. They pierce him with metallic rings on the outside, and poke him unglamorously with cotton buds on the inside.
Little Ear does not want that treatment anymore. He does not want to be sidelined. He hates being the ear. He wants to lead. He doesn’t want to simply listen, he wants to give orders. He wants to be in front, to have vision, just like the eye.
Many Parts, One Body
Perhaps some of us at one time or another, have felt like Little Feet or Little Ear. As you serve among other Christians, like the feet, you feel unappreciated, always doing the “hard and dirty” work. Yet you know that this work must be done. But when you do it, people, for some strange reason, do not get to see you do it. You feel overlooked. Or maybe like the ear, you resent always listening to what other people have to say. You wonder when your turn is, to lead and give vision.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:14-16 that although the Feet and Ear feel they do not belong to the body, and they desire to be the hand and eye respectively, they will not for that reason cease to be part of the body.
Because the very definition of the body means that there must be diversity. Paul writes in verse 14, that the body is not made up of one part but of many. And that is essentially what it means to be a body. This is again echoed in verse 19 when Paul writes that if the body were just one part, then there would be no body at all.
The point is that the very existence of the body necessitates having a diversity of members, as verse 20 puts it; there are many parts, but one body.
So what this means is that there will be many different types of people with different gifts in church. There are the louder ones, there are the quieter ones; there are the leaders, there are the followers. There are the visible ones and there are the less visible members.
Each member is important
The pastor may be faithful in his preaching. But the church will not be effective if the other members are not utilizing their gifts. The ushers need to welcome the newcomers and visitors warmly. The worship leader needs to rehearse with the band and the choir. The Sunday school teachers need to clean the nursery and prepare the lessons in advance for the children.
The bulletin needs to be typed out and printed out each week. The church building needs to be maintained and kept clean. The ministry and prayer team need to be ready for people who needs ministry. The sound system and projector needs to be arranged and set- up. Newcomers need to be brought into the church through evangelism. There must be the process of equipping and follow-up of new and current members. There must be cell groups to continue the discipleship and growth of each member. And surely there must be an active and worshipful congregation.The church needs both the visible and the less visible members. No one should feel superior and brag about his or her gift; instead, all should use their gifts willingly to serve. As verse 18 points out, it is God, the sovereign Lord who has arranged the parts of the body. God placed every part of the body, just as he wanted them to be.
Nothing happened by chance
Those with the more visible gifts are placed there by God. Those with the less visible gifts are also placed there by God. All members of the body are placed just as God wanted them to be, so that they may serve with faithfulness, commitment and confidence for the body.
So at times, when we feel like Little Feet or Little Ear, when we feel small and start to look down on our role in the body of Christ, perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we truly trust God enough. As Paul writes, it is God who purposefully placed us there. And we show that we trust God when we are faithful in serving in the very place that God has placed usin.
So then, is Paul saying that we are not allowed to desire the gifts that we do not have yet?
Is the foot allowed to be the hand? Can the ear desire to be like the eye? Or should we be contented about our gifts and not explore new areas? Our answer comes from Paul himself in the very same chapter in 1 Corinthians 12:31. Here, Paul encourages us to “eagerly desire the greater gifts”. The word “greater” here means the gifts that do more to build up the church.
So what this means is that we can and should desire for more spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ.
Yet as we desire for more, we must be careful not to despise the gifts that we currently have. Because when we look down on our current gifts, we act like the feet and the ear in not wanting to be part of the body. We should desire gifts for tomorrow without looking down on the ones we have today.
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 13 by saying that the better way, the most excellent way, instead of merely acquiring these gifts, is that we use these gifts in love to build up the body of Christ.
So that we do not desire spiritual gifts for our own edification, but that the body of Christ is blessed. Each part of the body uses his or her gift for the advancement and growth of the entire body.
The body building up the body; this in effect is how God chooses to build the church up. Paul in Ephesians 4:16, speaks of the body of Christ growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So right here in COR God chooses to work through you and me to build up the body of Christ with the very gifts that He has given. May we use and grow our gifts in love with passion, excitement and confidence to build the body of Christ.
Rev Victor Teo serves the body of Christ as a priest in COR. These days, he and his wife Priscilla, are kept busy by their two children Anneli (22 months) and Reuel (2 months).
This article first appeared in Issue 11, August 2014 CHORUS Magazine.