1 Corinthians 12:21-26 NIV
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. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Earlier in this chapter Paul talks about the different gifts given by the Spirit. Here he illustrates how each of us with our different gifts make up the body as a whole and each part is equally important. Actually, he goes a little further to say that the parts that seem weaker and less honorable should be given special honor. Yet it seems very common to look at people in the church or as parts of the body and place them on higher or lower rungs of the ladder. So if everyone is equal, why is it so easy to place people in different levels of importance?
A few days ago I was with a friend at a place called the HUB, a place where we set up and offer coffee and doughnuts to anyone in the area wanting to come in and just talk about what's going on in their life. It's basically a time to socialize with people who are alone and really have no one to talk to. We have been doing this for a few weeks now and have met some very interesting people. This past week an older fellow walked in who looked in rough shape. I immediately looked at him and decided he must have had a tough life and has probably been or is on drugs and wondered if he had even heard about Jesus. After listening to him telling us his story, we found out he has a bible he carries around with him and is ready to share the gospel with the street people he sees or anyone that is willing to listen. Looking at him, most would put him at a low level of importance even though he has quite possibly done as much or more than any of the rest of us for the kingdom of God.
When I was growing up I knew my dad loved me but one thing he never really did was listen to what I was feeling or what I was interested in or thinking about. He was more interested in making sure I did and thought everything the same way he did. I discovered early that the best way to survive and be accepted by him was to go along and just agree with him. I think the same can happen in the church. We seem to have this mold that everyone should fit in. They should pray a lot, which is important, they should read their bible often, which is also very important, and they should be involved in bible studies, also very important. The only problem is that this is where we often stop. While reading and praying and studying are all very important, unless people know their gifts and are active in those gifts, nothing really gets accomplished. All that happens is the ones who read and pray and lead groups the best are thought of as being the most important part of the body and nothing else matters or gets accomplished. You can read an owners manual on a particular machine that needs to be fixed but until you put to use what you have read nothing will be fixed. I have been in churches for many years and unfortunately for too many years, accepted the role of going along with whatever is expected of me. I thought that perhaps then I will be accepted as being part of the group but in doing that, I'm not using the gifts that have been given to me and being a useful part of the body.
I have been trying to think of some practical ways that will help me to break that pattern of placing people at different levels of importance and not being active myself in the part God has made me to be since I often feel so unimportant. I think the first thing is to get out of the habit of looking at someone else and deciding how important they are according to the way they look or what they are doing. Second, I need to quit thinking I need to do certain things in the church to feel accepted and instead know what my gifts are and use them, realizing no matter how insignificant I may appear to be, all parts of the body are equally important and are needed. Probably the most important thing I can do is to listen to others and be able and willing to share with them and let them share with me, our own inadequacies. This way we can realize how we are all equal and interdependent with each other for the gifts we have been given in order to make the body function in the way God intended it to function.
by Ken Edgerly