“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4-5, NLT).
Right on the heels of his statement about humility, Paul provided two epic sentences about the body of Christ which would serve as the foundation for what he would write next regarding spiritual gifts. Paul was fond of using the body as a metaphor for the corporate life of the church. He did so very purposefully, as it perfectly illustrated his points about congregational life. First, Paul pointed out the diversity within the body of Christ. We are many parts with many functions. No one part has greater worth or value, for each plays a purposeful and important role. Every part is needed and necessary in order for the whole to operate efficiently and effectively.
Second, Paul emphasized the unity of the body. Even though we are many parts with many functions, we are one, unified body. Our goal as a church is unity, not uniformity. On Sunday I illustrated this difference by pointing to the block walls of our sanctuary and comparing those blocks to the stained glass window. The blocks are symbolic of uniformity, with each being the exact same size, weight, color, and shape. The stained glass is symbolic of unity. Different shapes and colors of individual panes brought together to make a beautiful whole. The stained glass is a great example of unity without enforced uniformity.
The final observation is mutuality. We belong to one another. We need one another. We are not independent, but are interdependent in our relationships in the body of Christ.
Diversity, unity, and mutuality are fundamental if we’re going to be church as Christ intended. It takes humility to behave accordingly. When those come together, we can then have an honest conversation about spiritual gifts and how they empower us to accomplish our mission beyond our walls.