“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”—Romans 12:5 (NIV)
Our lead pastor, Doug Sauder, has often said the Church is not a cruise ship, but a battleship. The analogy is accurate because there are no passengers aboard a battleship—only crew members in active service who are vital to the vessel’s successful operation. Likewise, the Church is on a mission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16–20), and only Christians have been charged with carrying out the Great Commission.
In today’s verse, the apostle Paul says we are members of one body, the Church, that belong to Jesus. The Greek word for member used here is mélos, which is translated as “a member (part) belonging to the whole.” Interestingly, the word mélos was also used in antiquity to refer to instruments of war and the working parts of a ship. To put it simply, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
However, there’s a point here, I think Paul doesn’t want us to miss. Even though we each play a different role in the broader mission of the Church, we are deeply interconnected like our physical body parts. No Christian is irrelevant! In 1 Corinthians 12:21–23 (NIV), Paul writes, “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!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible describes our relationship as Christians like this: “[W]e are so united as to be mutually dependent; each one is of service to the other, and the existence and function of the one is necessary to the usefulness of the other. Thus, in the Church, every individual is not only necessary in his place as an individual, but is needful to the proper symmetry and action of the whole.”
So, how does this play out in our everyday lives as members of the Church? Paul spells it out pretty clearly when he writes, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25–26 ESV).
To borrow from the lyrics of the popular U2 song, “One”:
One love, one blood
One life, you’ve got to do what you should
One life with each other
One life, but we're not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
Pause: What role do you feel God has called you to play in the body of Christ, and in what ways can you serve the other members around you?
Practice: If you aren’t sure what your gifts are, but would like to find out, start by making a list of the things you like, the things you’re passionate about, the things that excite you or bring you joy, and the things you’re good at. Consider taking a spiritual gifts test and explore how you can develop and hone these things and use them to minister to others.
Pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for bringing me into Your family to be part of Your body. Please show me how You want to use me to bring You glory and to serve those around me. Help me live in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing in both their joy and grief, putting the gifts You’ve given me into practice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.