Body of Christ
By Angelene Samuel
It was a few days since Sarah mailed me, inviting me to share on the Body of Christ at the upcoming South Asia Regional Retreat at Chennai. And for first timers like me, to even think about sharing something before well weathered spiritual heroes was unthinkable. What added to this apprehension was the abstract dimension of the topic at hand — the Body of Christ. I thought I knew well about the body of Christ both in the literal sense (the body that was broken for us at the Cross) and the spiritual sense (the body of believers forming the church). So I was surprised all the more to be called to meditate and ruminate on this alone for three full days!
I read the familiar passages, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, and tried to ruminate on the whole, abstract, ambiguous concept. I prayed hard to the Lord to deliver me mercifully out of this difficult assignment. I tried to tax my mind into thinking how well we can meditate on the body of Christ. Oh how hard and difficult it was! So I jotted down a few things, prayed, jotted down a few more, prayed and then packed up for our retreat, all the time wondering what the Body of Christ meant for us, those who are committed to serving the Lord in our respective countries and locations.
I was still thinking hard and nervously on the way to the retreat center. We were traveling toward the center in Chennai, India in a taxi, and I was sitting between my mom and sister while my dad sat in the front. Suddenly something very familiar, delicious and extremely satisfying came to my mind. In this moment in time, lodged closely between the treasure of family and loved ones, I was overcome with emotion. My family means more than anything to me in the whole of this world. And here we were, not even looking or talking to each other, yet so deeply and intimately connected. In this moment I seemed to have a glimpse into the reality of the body of Christ.
That evening we had our first introductory session. The moment I sat with my parents and sister together in a row, the same feeling of being connected and contentment prevailed. I continued to attend keenly the proceedings of each and every session. Every day we had meditation and time of prayer. This was done in groups and the members prayed for each other. This again brought forth such delightful experience of being connected to each other, across different countries and ministries, in a special way. More than this, was the time we collectively took to share about each of our communities, and then gather together to pray for each of our communities..
These moments of prayer brought forth a treasured sense of joy. We were, together, living and breathing and being the body of Christ. I was slowly gaining understanding into the reality of body of Christ. I was surprised that this did not come when I tried to understand it as a doctrine or a teaching of the New Testament. When I let go of my mental ideas and explanations of what the body of Christ meant, my insight was enlightened to the body of Christ right in front of me, even all around me. It was then that I understood the huge blunder I was making by trying to know the teaching of the body (merely an outward understanding of a principle), while failing to recognize the body of Christ which produces a consciousness within (that I, too, right now am living into the body of Christ). I realized that there were a few cardinal principles on which the Body of Christ becomes alive and working. In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member intimately belongs to all the others (Romans 12:5).
What does belonging in this verse mean? It means fellowship, relying on others. The life of the body of Christ relies on fellowship, for without it the body will die. For example, in the body of Christ, perhaps you are a mouth, and you can therefore speak out. But you need the fellowship of that member who may be the ears in order that you may hear well. Again, the fellowship of the legs is required for the body to move to new places, and hands to complete the work of God. It is by means of fellowship, working together in the intimacy of knowing one another, that we are able to receive the distinctive gifts and functions of other members of the body. But perhaps even more important, is that this same fellowship and intimacy of all parts of the body allow us to be on: in this way you can also make all that the body has yours as well.
The importance of fellowship was even indicated by Jesus himself. Turn your eyes to our Lord at the Garden of Gethsemane. This is the most crucial phase in our Lord’s life before he makes the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. In Mark 14:34, the Lord speaks to Peter, James and John “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death … Stay here and keep watch.” God is omnipotent, but here we see Jesus seeking out the fellowship of his fellow humans at this crucial hour of trial. The fact that fellowship is required for every member is emphasized through our Lord.
Relying on others for their contribution in taking forward the Will of God is the vital link needed between each member of the body to belong to the body of Christ. This is how new life and hope flows between each member.
It is a fact the each member has a unique office in the body of Christ. The eye cannot have the same ability to deliver a timely message like the mouth, but the eye will certainly have a wonderful vision of the Will of God without which the whole body will perish. The relationship between members thrives by way of the intimacy of its members. In our families, workplaces and fields of ministry, we operate uniquely in our functions, but as one body. It is through our continued journeys together, though our contexts be many, that we grow as one through intimacy, fellowship and love. Our service and ministry, then, is a reciprocal response that springs from our call to intimacy and fellowship as one body. It must be our prayer that each of us may grow into intimacy with Christ the Head, and enter more deeply into what it means to be the body of Christ.