1 Corinthians 12:12-13: 12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
This last week I have been giving a great deal of thought to the importance of all of the parts of the body. And, it has given me completely new insights on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. You see I had a blocked gland removed from the underside of my tongue on Thursday and I have learned just how dependent I am on every part of my body. I mean you try drinking, talking, even breathing without using your tongue for awhile and you will understand what I mean! However, given what has been happening in our nation’s capital it seems ironic that it is my tongue that is giving me a problem.
But enough of the gory details! Paul of course is writing to his wayward community in Corinth, which has a few problems getting along with each other. Does that sound familiar? Paul is telling his young Corinthian faith community they need each other because all of them are important and all are equal in the eyes of Christ. Not unlike the conflict we’ve been seeing in our nation’s capital this past week and I am afraid it will take another Apostle Paul for a resolution to this crisis to be resolved.
What might Paul tell our community today? Well one line he might repeat is “the body does not consist of one member but of many” and that each of the members is needed to perform some task that sustains the whole body. No part of the body could say “I do not belong to the body,” the tongue cannot say “I am in pain, so let the eye take my place,” trust me that isn’t going to happen. Just as the fireman cannot say to the man whose house is on fire I am to important to get my hands dirty, therefore I will not help you. That man’s house will burn down you can be pretty certain of that.
Today in Washington DC and in the rest of this country we have people who are saying just that. “I am to important to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor, or help the sick and elderly, or do anything that would make me see you as important in G-d’s eyes. I have my house with all of my barns stuffed with grain and produce that I have worked for and if you can’t take care of yourself, well that’s not my problem.” What these so called “important” people forget is that someone else prepared the ground, sowed the grain, harvested it and stacked it in his barn, they didn’t do it themselves. Just as in Jesus’ story of the rich man with all those full barns, G-d will come and say “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) and it will be too late.
Paul told his community, “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect: whereas our more respectable members do not need this.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23) Paul’s words ring with the same authority today as they did in the First Century, for those we hold in low esteem in our community are the ones who are harvesting our food, making our clothes and building our houses. Just because they don’t wear a suit and tie, or nice dresses doesn’t make them less valuable to the whole body of our communities. I would love to see the Speaker of the House in the fields of California harvesting lettuce; it would do him and the rest of our politicians good to do some really hard labor. There perspective on what is important would change dramatically, that is if they survive the 14-18 hour, 7 day a week job. Let them live for a year as an elderly person on Medicare and Social Security trying to make ends, trying to pay for food, rent and medical care on the little they have. Or, they could choose to take care of a family whose child has cancer or some other debilitating disorder. Let’s see if they could do any better with the medical bills and all the rest of the needs of a family on $50,000 a year.
Each of the “unimportant people” are part of the body of this country, and of the body of G-d. In fact according to G-d they are more important than those who sit in the “great halls of government.” For G-d tells us all “do not abuse any widow or orphan,” (Exodus 22:22) or “oppress a resident alien.” (Exodus 23:9) But those verses are conveniently forgotten.
We are all part of the body of G-d, of creation and the creator. We are all part of our country and world, whether you are a business person, a working person, a widow, a widower, orphan, or an immigrant to this country or any country. Each and every one of us is important to the wellbeing of us all and the Creator’s purpose for us as a whole people. No one is more important than the other; we all have our tasks to do in this life that will lead us into the next life. This week I learned a lesson that every part of the body is important no matter how insignificant I might think it is.
The tongue can be an instrument for good will, or a sword that hurts and divides us all. My tongue hasn’t always been a good instrument. Just like ever one else there here have been times when I have said hurtful things to others and I can’t take those words back, as much as I might wish too. Yet I have also spoken words of kindness and caring that I hope in the eyes and ears of G-d outweigh the bad.
This week has made me aware of the incredible gift of all parts of the body, the seemingly insignificant, and the ones that I erroneously hold in high honor. We all have the power to be good gifts of the body, the body of our country and world, and the body of the Spirit. No matter how insignificant each of us seems to be each is important to the functioning of this grand creation gifted to us by the creator. Paul ends his short discourse on gifts of the body with the words: “But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” Each of us has the potential within to do even greater things than we do. It takes each of us to encourage those gifts in each other such that we all prosper, just as the Creator wants.
Ruth Jewell, ©October 5, 2013