Today’s post is inspired by a Casting Crowns song called “If We Are The Body.” I’ll add a video of it at the end of this post, so you can listen to it if you’re not familiar with the song. It is basically a challenge to the Christian church — if we really are Christ’s body (and we know from verses like Colossians 1:18 that we are), why isn’t the church as a whole acting more like Jesus Christ?
♪ ♫ But if we are the body, Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Do we have the same kind of compassion that Christ showed? He wept over Jerusalem because His people rejected His attempts “to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 23:37; Luke 19:41-42). He was constantly reaching out to help, encourage, and teach people.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (Matt. 9:36)
Each of us can bear witness to the compassion and mercy of God in our lives. Take just a moment to think about all the forgiveness He has shown you, all the times He picked you up out of hopelessness — and then look at the next chapter in Matthew.
When Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, He instructed them to do the same thing He was doing: “preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:7-8). It’s this last sentence that I want to focus on. Are we giving compassion, forgiveness, and help to others as freely as Christ gives those things to us? Or are we holding ourselves back from reaching out to certain people?
♪ ♫ Why aren’t His hands healing?
We often seem to gloss over the phrase “gifts of healing” when reading about spiritual gifts in the church. We say that since we don’t see people today performing the same kinds of miracles that were happening in Acts 3:1-10 and 5:12-16, that these gifts are not present in today’s church. Paul did not, however, indicated that there will be a time when certain gifts simply are not around.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, (1 Cor 12:7-9)
The word translated “healing” here is iama (G2386). It is much like our English word, and means a “cure, the result of the process of healing.”It is used in the gospels of Christ healing with a touch or by a “word of power.” Of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, Zodhiates points out that iama is always plural, and that the Lord gave “gifts or abilities to provide the means of various healings in His divine providence whether they be with or without medicine.”
I suspect that the gifts of healing can include a wide range of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual healing. Some people have a gift for counseling others through emotional distress. Others with a gift for physical healing might practice a form of medicine. Those with a gift of faith can pray, trusting this promise:”the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:15).
There is no reason to assume the lack of showy miracles means there are no gifts of healing in the church. Not every person in the body of Christ will have a gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:28-30), but if those who have been given this gift are using it, then the overall body will have healing hands.
♪ ♫ Why aren’t His words teaching?
The verse I most often see/hear people turn to in the context of the church’s responsibility to teach is at the end of Matthew. Jesus told His followers, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Often, I think churches approach this verse one of two opposite and extreme directions. One is to adopt disciplining the nations as the chief and greatest occupation of the church. The other is to ignore it completely and say it’s not our place to “shove our religion down someone’s throat.”
As in many things, the balanced view is both rarer and a better goal. We cannot afford to ignore a clear instruction from Jesus Christ to teach, but if we adopt this as the one great commission of the church, we risk overlooking Christ’s instruction to “feed My sheep” — to care for and teach people who are already in the church. In Paul’s continuing discussion about spiritual gifts, he says,
Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1 Cor. 14:12)
The reason to want spiritual gifts is so that we might build-up, teach, and help each other within the church. Then, when conditions inside the church are as they should be, God will bring in new believers.
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)
How many of our church congregations would inspire this kind of reaction in someone who just walked through the door? TV shows, radio spots, websites, magazines, and booklets might help someone find a church group, but it’s the people who will inspire them to stay. If a new believer doesn’t see evidence that God is truly among us and hear His words being taught, they will keep looking for a church that actually acts like part of the body of Christ.
♪ ♫ And if we are the body, Why aren’t His feet going?
When studying for this section, I was surprised to find how prominently feet figure in the Bible. The Lord “will not allow your foot to be moved” (Ps. 121.3), He delivers “my feet from falling” (Ps. 116:8), and His “word is a lamp unto my feet” (Ps. 119:105). The Israelites “feet did not swell” during all their years of wandering in the wilderness (Neh. 9:21). People sat at and anointed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:38; 8:35; 10:39; John 12:3). Jesus washed the feet of His disciples (John 13:5-6). John the Baptist’s father prophesied that he would “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
Where our feet are going indicates the direction of our lives. Are our feet headed toward evil, such as “feet swift to shed blood” (Rom. 3:15)? Or are our feet beautiful like “the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,” and shod with that same gospel as part of our spiritual armor (Rom. 10:15; Eph. 6:15)?
In Jeremiah, it says that “it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). The only one who can direct our steps rightly is God, and He directs us to walk in the steps of Jesus.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (1 Pet. 2:21)
The context here is that to endure “grief, suffering wrongfully,” is commendable before God because it gives us the opportunity to mimic Christ’s actions (1 Pet. 2:18-20). As His body, we must be willing to walk in His footsteps, wherever that might lead.
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:6)
♪ ♫ Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way
Love — agape (G26) — is the key to relationships. It is called “a more excellent way” compared to gifts of leadership, prophecy, healing, and working miracles. Even “the best gifts” are of no value if separated from love (1 Cor. 12:28-13:3).
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Jesus said that love among the breathren is how the entire world will recognize us as His disciples. This builds right upon the idea of someone being able to walk into a gathering of the church and see “that God is truly among you” (1 Cor. 14:25). As the discussion continues, Jesus also connects love to the idea following in His footsteps.
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)
Like in 1 Peter 2, following Christ includes the very real possibility of suffering. Here, with the focus on love, it also includes the idea of voluntary sacrifice for the good of another person. That is the kind of attitude that the entire church is to have.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Cor. 12:26-27)
I am so blessed to regularly fellowship with a congregation like this. As we individually and collectively grow more and more like Jesus and learn to use our spiritual gifts “for the edifying of the body of Christ,” we will be better able to serve Him by serving other people (Eph. 4:12).