In all of Paul’s writing there is no better description for the conglomeration of those in Christ than his descriptive use of the phrase “the body”. Frequently Paul parallels the literal Church to a figurative body. When you think about the human body nothing could be more complex. From that which is on the surface such as arms, legs, hands, and so on to that which is within, like the heart, blood, brain etc. Seen or unseen each part of our body has some function or another. The same can be said for the spiritual body. Just as there are many parts and operations of the human body so is there within the people composing the body of believers.
Last week my regularly scheduled reality was interrupted by the privilege to have a break of sorts at Village Creek Bible Camp. Whether or not my previous experience with this ministry meant being too busy, or just not caring, I finally learned something I had never gotten in past visits. Being a mere guest allowed me to see and understand things that I had missed so many trips before. We hear a lot about “the body” in Christianity, unfortunately it would seem there is little to no clarity on what it actually is or does or what it should even mean.
Camp is a weird place. Not bad weird but weird in the sense of being so different from many other ministries and facets of the body. Depending on the day, typically the people are nothing short of mental and still the heart and love of Christ present there is like none other. One of the summer staff would commonly wear a t- shirt that said something to the effect of ” You don’t have to be crazy to work here, we’ll train you.” Nothing could be more true, they are fools for Christ in the truest of senses. In its own right it is the closest thing you can get to the mission field in America. The full-time staff are more or less year round missionaries, with other believers coming in at various periods to provide assistance. Whether in the summer or retreat season this ministry is never short in versatility when it comes to beliefs.
Among the seasonal and full-time staff there is an incredibly broad ( and I use “broad” very conservatively) range of doctrinal differences. Yet in the midst of all this diversity they serve and work together towards the common goal of servitude in the name of Christ. And it works. Yearly they see see person after person impacted and change, and while it is not about the numbers, fruits of their labor are eternally evident. Astounding right? Missing what I missed? That should be the drive for all believers right? It was that sort of thinking which kept me in ignorance for the better part of two years. The whole idea of the body is so general that we fail to see and recognize that in a lot of places there are body parts with no traces of the body to be found. It took seeing the body fully together and in action to realize what it actually looked like. Like Chinese whispers, I was searching for something that in reality I had no idea as to what it looked like. Imagine hunting a dear or any sort of game without any idea of its appearance and you have my used to be perception of the body.
Christianity is an amazing example of division, so no need to go into the obvious. To the outside spectator you would almost wonder how we make it the way we do. Having more sects and doctrines than one can shake a stick at , the body hobbles around like a war-torn amputee. Instead of working together you have the arms with the arms, the legs with the legs, the heads with the heads, the hearts with the hearts, and the examples go on and on. Do you see yet? Somehow someway this ministry has succeeded in a way that some many others have failed. In this day and age if a person does not like a church or ministry they break off and start their own. I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther and look up to him in many ways. Most people fail in seeing what his mission in life was. His goal was not to be done with the Catholic church but to in truth change it. Frankly I think if he were to see what the Church has created and done in his name he would be nailing a lot more thesis’ to a lot more doors. Yes he failed in reforming the Catholic church, but nonetheless he got the importance of unity, something that so many to follow after him completely lost. You almost wonder if we are so prone to division because it is easier, and does not take the dimensions of work that revamping does. A cheap way out of sorts.
My first summer at camp was a tough one for sure. Coming from New Tribes , a fish bowl of dismembered, alike, body parts, VCBC could do nothing but throw me for a loop. How could these people of varying Christian beliefs actually function together and effectively work as a whole? Being slightly less immature than what I am now I was appalled, which at that time was unavoidable, whereas now absurd. “How dare I be lumped together with folks I do not completely agree with?!” my mind thought. As a result I found myself engaged in several conflicts and multiple heart issues. It is that inside the box kind of thinking that limits God. Telling yourself you do not have God in a box does not keep Him any less boxed in, and that is what I did.Typically people who think they have it all figured out are generally the furthers from it. That summer I eventually developed several friendships with people who thought quite a bit differently from me. This was a milestone and a good milestone at that. Sure they disagreed with things I believed, just as I did things they held to, but commonly we were one in the essential truths that comes with being a part of the body.
With so many extremities of the body it is highly unlikely that many of them will think, act, or even function the same, however that does not give us the right to divorce ourselves from the overall composition of the believing body. Serving different purposes does mean we are serving a different cause. Where would be the challenge to think if we all thought the same? If everybody agreed with everybody we would have no reason to understand or even develop the how’s and whys in what we believe our self. Not only that but it keeps us from the opportunities to minister as well as be ministered to. In my opinion, and in what I saw, is that commonly we see various ministries, organizations, churches, people, and even groups as their own bodies. We develop our own ideas of what the body should look like. Instead of viewing the body as the body, being anyone who is in Christ, we see ourselves divided by our system of beliefs. Unfortunately we allow those differences to keep us from contributing to the main entity of the body and direct our efforts towards our part alone, focusing on the individual and not the corporate. Furthermore that is when you begin to see as I said before the arms staying with the arms, the legs staying with the legs, and you get the picture once again. Unless each part functions together, they become ineffective to just plain useless. Whether we are stuck with each other so why not try to make this most of it?
1st Corinthians(which coincidentally is one of the letters where Paul speaks about believers as a body) we see that their church is divided by their doctrinal differences. They had separated their selves by the beliefs, of Paul, Apollos, Peter, and possibly others. These teachers, while all believers, had potentially differing views on topics not necessarily essential to how one walks with God. Because they were differing in minor views, the people of Corinth had lost unity. Paul tells them that he, nor any of the others are Christ, but imitators and a part of Him. As such what they needed to do was follow Him and be united in Christ, not divided over trivial issues in minor beliefs. Today the number of doctrinal issues is multiplied by a million. Maybe not a million but a lot. People break from the body for everything from the rapture being real to whether or not Jonah was in a fish or a whale. I know because I used to be, and at times still am, one of them.
At the cost of lacking impact through the Gospel and love of Christ, we see no shame in our amputations. Again I am not talking about key major issues of belief, but the minor, knit picking, banal and insipid ones keeping us from being one in the body. Village Creek Bible Camp and probably many ministries out there I know nothing about, prove we can do it. Whether we are the bowels clearing the crap to keep the body operational without much recognition, or the mouth with all the talk time and representing the face of the body, we just have to do it. While our common belief in Christ and to see others know and changed by Him should be enough, our humanity steps in and tells us it is not. Throw away the agendas, major on the majors, minor on the minors, and serve together in Him.