My father-in-law came over last weekend to help me fix our car that had been overheating. I say help, but the truth (which I’ll gladly confess) is that I know very little about cars. My father-in-law, on the other hand, is a mechanic. As I watched him pick apart my vehicle and explain to me the various components, it was quite astounding to me that this vehicle goes anywhere at all. Every piece has to operate properly and the fact that our car was overheating had nothing to do with the spark plugs or the driveshaft or the radiator. It had to do with the thermostat and a by-pass hose. Since neither was working properly, many of the other components, those much more “important” components, would cease to operate correctly.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18). He writes this after explaining that a foot should not wish to be a hand otherwise you’d have a person made up of one leg and three arms! That doesn’t paint a picture of God’s sacred human creation.
As I helped shine a flashlight over the engine of my car I began to think, what if every part of this engine wanted to be a by-pass hose? That would be quite a ridiculous looking engine. I thought, what if the by-pass hose wanted to be a spark plug? I would then have no coolant flowing to the necessary place. In either circumstance the vehicle would cease to operate. In either case the perspective is focused on the part and not the whole.
Often we miss the perspective that Scripture is seeking to provide to us. We cannot rely on our own individual strength, and we are not called necessarily to rely on our own individual prayers. We are called to rely on the Spirit indwelling the universal church body. We as a church will not get very far if we isolate our broken selves. The key phrase in Paul’s dialogue with the church in Corinth is that we must focus on what God desires: “just as he wanted them to be.” Paul spoke not to a group of individuals but to a unit of Corinthian Christians. This Corinthian unit shared the same type of distractions that we face today, they were far more focused on their own successes and failures than on the purpose of Christ’s church: to profess the Gospel both verbally and visually as one body in faith, hope, and love.
This week we have the opportunity to come together in purpose as we pray for one another as God desired. Paul writes that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit if given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). You may feel like a by-pass hose next to a driveshaft, but both are made to glorify God’s purpose and both our purposeless apart from Christ. There are days where we may feel melancholy about our place in the world, but know (and pray) that we are one body and that the Spirit is uniting us for a common good.
As I held the flashlight for my father-in-law, it was amazing to think that, despite our different backgrounds and personalities, we could work together for a single purpose. There were moments in our shared experience where he needed me as much as I needed him. Though I know nothing about cars, I had tools on the shelf that he had forgotten to pack in his bag. It is in moments such as this that it no longer matters who is the greatest because the purpose of family is made clear. “Every part rejoices together.”
Pray for your Church family today. Pray on their behalf, that we may not lose sight of the prize of glory in Christ Jesus. Let us praise God that we are not segregated individuals, but as Paul spoke to the church members he said, together “stand firm! Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com