Thursday, 26 September 2013

Individuals united in Christ

Romans 12:4-5
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
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As Christians, we are called to be individuals, and we are called to be united. We aren't called to either all conform and become the same, or to go our separate ways - we need to hold these things (unity and diversity) in tension.

Paul uses the example of a body: The body is one body, but it has different parts, and all of these are necessary for it to work effectively (We need eyes to see danger and feet to move away from it). The church is the same - God has given us all different gifts. While some roles might seem more important than others, they are all necessary and they are all needed for God's people to work together in glorifying him.

In Romans 12:1 Paul calls us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to serve God. We also know elsewhere that we are all given different gifts and talents with which we need to serve God (check out 1 Corinthians 12).

This doesn't give us room for Pride. In verse 3 e are told not to think of ourselves more highly then we should - God has given us gifts, but we need what he has given everyone else to serve God effectively. There's no rom for thinking that we're better than others, and there's no room for thinking that we're not good enough - God has given everyone exactly what they have, we owe it all to him and he does not waste space.

What are our talents and gifts? Anything we can use to serve God - be it being able to read and write, being able to speak, having money that you can use for him, having musical skills or anything else. To serve God effectively we need to be individuals, utilising the gifts he has given us.

F.F. Bruce puts it like this
"Diversity, not uniformity, is the mark of God’s handiwork. It is so in nature; it is so in grace, too, and nowhere more so than in the Christian community."

But in tension with that, we can't just go off on our own and use our gifts however we want. We need to work together to help each other as God's people. We need to get rid of quarrels and fights with each other, we need to get over our own little problems - focussing on God instead and working together to encourage, grow, challenge, rebuke and help one another love and serve God more. That means we have to be honest with each other. Deeply, personally honest. And for that to happen we need to be trustworthy. Are you trustworthy?

Another element of this is the question of who is the body? Is it just our church or denomination? No. It's anyone who genuinely puts their faith in Jesus as God who came to earth as a man, took our sin, suffered on the cross, died, was buried and rose again. There are some core doctrines to the christian faith that are non-negotiable, and people that we won't be able to accept as fellow Christians because of their beliefs. But there are other doctrines that we shouldn't break fellowship over.

Since the whole community of Christians world-wide is the church, what are we doing to help each other here, and what are we doing to encourage believers overseas? Are we praying for those we are being persecuted? Are we using the technology we have to make connections and encourage christians across the world (e.g. prayer groups on Facebook)? These things certainly should not come at the expense of loving fellow Christians where we are living, but perhaps thats a good use of the gift we have in technology.

But what about when others aren't doing it back?
What about when we give it all to our church, but no one else does? What about when we look after others, but when we're sick no one cares for us?

It's easy to get bitter about it when that happens (and it will happen), but the question is, who are we serving? God or ourselves? If we're doing these things for God then we should praise him at the opportunity to serve, regardless of how much those around us are doing. If we're doing it for ourselves, so others will look after us or make us feel good, then we're not really doing it for God.

Put in your bit of the effort, encourage others to do the same and glorify God whatever the outcome, for he is good!

Soli Deo Gloria!

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