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The Right Context for Redemptive Community

• Dwayne Polk

This week Associate Pastor Dwayne Polk continued his discussion of community by taking a close look at the powerful biblical metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ. He started off by marveling at the amazing work of God in creating a human being. Our bodies and their various features are truly miraculous. Not only did God have an amazing plan for the human body, God has an amazing plan for the Church, the spiritual body of Christ, through which God intends to accomplish the reign of God on Earth.

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This week Associate Pastor Dwayne Polk continued his discussion of community by taking a close look at the powerful biblical metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ. He started off by marveling at the amazing work of God in creating a human being. Our bodies and their various features are truly miraculous. Not only did God have an amazing plan for the human body, God has an amazing plan for the Church, the spiritual body of Christ, through which God intends to accomplish the reign of God on Earth.

But just as things sometimes go wrong in our physical bodies, things can go wrong in the church as well. The main texts were drawn from I Cor. 12. In Paul’s context, the main issues were around unity and diversity within the church. The goal was that a diversity of gifts be present in the church while maintaining unity in the Spirit of God. Paul used the physical body to model how a diversity of parts can all belong to only one body which functions as one entity.

For this to happen, there must be a healthy sense of independence of one part from the other. Each has a distinct function which no other part can efficiently accomplish (see I Cor. 12:15-20). If certain members of the body become more “desirable” and certain other members are drawn to imitate them, then we have a breakdown in the functioning of the body. The identity of the whole body is not found in any of its parts, but rather the effective functioning of the whole. So, having a loud voice is of no use if the lungs and heart will not support it. Each part must play its role and not seek after the status or recognition of other roles.

In severe cases some members of the body may drain life and worth from the giftings of other members of the body, rather than the proper functioning of the whole. Dwayne referred to this as a “parasitic spirituality” where spiritual nourishment comes from over identifying with prominent members of the body rather than the whole body functioning properly in dependence upon God. This results in a two-fold problem: God is unable to effectively use the gifts of the one who over-identifies with someone else’s role AND members like this drain energy from other parts of the body rather than fulfilling their proper function. True redemptive community makes way for God to show up however God desires to and grants independence to each member to truly function as God designed them to do.

In addition to this functional independence, there is a necessary dependence that members of a body must have on one another (see I Cor. 12:21-24). Paul anticipates this with the idea that body members may claim to have no need for one another. One of the main issues Paul was addressing had to do with class distinctions, and we still have those, but Dwayne emphasized how our overly busy schedules can cause us to live lives of independence today. We sometimes buy into the lie that it is easier to live our lives on our own than complicate them with others and all of their issues. This is one current way we say “I don’t need you.” We are often deceived into believing that we can do spirituality on our own. But of course, this totally contradicts God’s plan for a body.

A healthy dependence on one another is critical to the life and success of the church. Dwayne rightly compared “lone ranger” Christians to cancer cells because the effect is the same, the individual cell grows in a radically autonomous way at the expense of the body.

When we, as a church body, have a healthy sense of independence and a healthy sense of dependence, we begin to express a sense of well-being that works for the good of the whole body. If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, the whole body is honored. This is proper interdependence.

All of this is well and good, but even when all systems are operating properly we know that a body needs sustenance. It needs food, air, and water. These elements are not neglected in the biblical metaphor of the body. Jesus claimed to be our food (bread of life) and water (water that eternally satisfies thirst) and the Spirit is the very breath of life for the body (I Cor. 12:4-7)! Without these spiritual elements, a body begins to feed on itself, just like a physical body does when starvation sets in. So, it is our right-relatedness to one another, as well as our absolute dependence on the nourishment of God that makes spiritual well-being a reality for the Church Body.

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Topics: Community, Individualism, Spiritual Gifts


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Focus Scripture:

  • I Corinthians 12

    Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

    There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

    Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

    Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    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.

    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

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