Every believer, every part of the spiritual body of Christ is needed (12:21-26). We must accept each other in his body and value the contribution of each person (12:21). Every local church has a unique gathering of individuals, and these groupings might not seem to offer much promise for friendships at first glance. For example, one person might not be able to approve of much another does. The second might not particularly want a third as you’re their close friend. But for Christ’s sake we must accept one another in love and spur one another on to love and good works. Let me say some things to push us all to consider the actual condition of our local gatherings. In order to make progress, we must see one another as “in Christ” and realize that we are members together of one body. I think most will claim, “Of course we believe this and do this!” But I ask, “Is your assembly (church) really this way? Or are many being rejected in subtle or not so subtle ways (James 2:1-4)? Toleration is not the same as reaching out in friendship.
There is a place for “other-esteem” in the church. We must see each other with the Lord’s eyes. Yes, we will see failures and weaknesses, but we should also see the grace of the Lord, and seeing that, prize each other highly. If a local church is more like a social club than the body of Christ, worldly distinctions like ethnicity, education, economic level will abound. In some churches, people are valued above others because of their attainments in doctrinal knowledge. In other churches, it is because they are skilled social mixers. However, we ought to prize one another because each one is “in Christ”.
Everyone in the body must have a concern for everyone else (12:25). What about special friends? People can be drawn close to one another in surprising ways. Close friendships are not a problem as long as the friendship is holy. Then they become very beneficial to the whole body. You probably will feel closer to some than to others, but do not neglect the whole for the sake of the few. Move out of your comfort zone and seek out fellowship with others that you suppose are unlike you. (You see yourself as an eye or ear, and see others as knees and elbows.) My friend, show some loving concern for those members that you suppose are beneath you. This requires ongoing, special effort; it doesn’t simply happen.
The local church is a spiritual body, and it only develops as the parts of the body enjoy spiritual fellowship with each other. Local institutional churches grow for many reasons: a good location, enthusiastic inviters, an upbeat, contemporary music program, a watered down message that offends no one, or they grow for the fact of being large enough so that those attending can do nothing but attend and enjoy the big crowd, or because they promise healing and prosperity to the faithful, etc. A few actually grow because they are faithful to the Lord, according to the light they have! But we need to ask: what is developing—a gathering of disciples who make disciples who make disciples, or is it merely a weird kind of social club?
The spiritual health of each part affects the spiritual health of the whole body (12:26). Your holiness and sinfulness affect more than you. Your spiritual condition affects all of us. The best course of action is to walk with the Lord in holiness, love, joy and peace and share these blessings with others. If you are taking steps toward heaven with the Lord, why not share that journey with others?
Grace and peace, David
P.S. Yesterday, Sharon and I went all day to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was the reason for no new article. We had a great time, and we will feature some pictures from our excursion there. For today, a flower from a few years ago.