Ever read the same article or book and found that you had a completely different take on it than another person? Did you ever find it difficult to understand how they could view it so differently than yourself? It seemed so clear to you...how could someone else see it so differently? Well...welcome to the body of Christ! Historically in the Church differences concerning the things of the Spirit and the gifts have caused much division and challenge. Some can't imagine life without the gifts and some can't imagine the possibility of them being a part of church life. How can this be? We're reading the same book, the Bible, and we love the same Savior. How could we view things so differently? Well...welcome to the human heart! What we are dealing with is issues with our own hearts. We are not dealing primarily with a problem with knowledge, but with application. Understanding our own hearts and how we relate to others when it comes to application of the things of the Spirit in our churches and everyday lives. Our commitment must be to walk things out in love...to embrace unity while making room for diversity.
When talking about unity, the first thing we need to understand is that it comes from the Spirit, not the gifts. In this passage in 1 Cor. 12 that Ron was bringing to us we see in verses 12-13 the obvious point for Paul; it is the "one Spirit" who is at work making us "one body". Unity comes from the Spirit. When Paul uses the word "body" he is talking synonymously of the church...himself. When Paul (Saul) was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus he said "why do you persecute me". Paul was persecuting God's people, yet Jesus said it was him Paul was persecuting. Jesus and his body are one. Paul learned one of the most profound truths about the Church – that the Church and Christ are one. What you do to one, you do to the other. How you treat the one, you are treating the other. When you ignore the one, you are ignoring the other. When you give to one, you give to the other. When you serve the one, you serve the other. What kind of unity might we experience if we actually got this? Lived it out in our daily lives? do we disagree on some things? Are there problems we need to work through? Absolutely, but how do we treat each other in the midst of this? This is the doctrine of the church. When we see this clearly it totally effects how we understand and treat each other. We are Christ. How you treat each other is how you treat Christ. In this revelation we see how the 'one Spirit' could produce the unity he means to have in his Body, even though he desires diversity.
When we consider diversity we simply look at the obvious, like Paul does. A body is made up of many parts and all parts are needed. But Paul points out some problems concerning diversity. First is inferiority. Some feel inferior because they are not like someone else. If I'm not like so and so, I am not really part of the body in the same way. "I don't have that gift, I'm don't know enough, I don't like the gift I have". Dissatisfied with ourselves. This questioning and inferiority can keep us from experiencing the blessing of diversity we were meant to have. Secondly there is spiritual pride. I don't need you. Your gift is not like mine...my part is more important, my contribution is more significant. Really? Ever noticed when one part of your body hurts or fails to function the entire rest of your body is effected? Ron pointed out it's like kidneys. Ever thought much about your kidneys? Yet when they don't function properly the entire body will shut down and die. A kidney is not something that is glamorous or pretty (like your eyes) yet without them you cannot live. Welcome to diversity in the body. We need each other. We need the gifts other have to offer. The reality is we are supposed to be different. Sameness is not an option in the body. We need to be experiencing mutual honor and mutual care for each other.
At the end of it all we understand that unity comes by the Spirit not by gifts. The Spirit makes us one body, but we need the diversity of gifts and callings to make the body function as it was meant to function. We need to focus on our oneness in the Spirit as one body, while at the same time seeking to fulfill our unique part in making the body function as it was meant to.
How can you do this? First, seek to serve. Look for a need and fill it. Don't seek gifts first, seek out needs. Seek to be a blessing to others. You will find your unique niche in the body not by seeking your gift, but seeking to serve. In doing this your gifts will come more clearly into focus. You will also experience the unity in community, relationships and friendships you were meant to have. Secondly, live with two questions in mind: What do you need?, and What do you have? What needs do you see in people's lives? Are you consistently tuned in to the needs of others? Then ask "What do I have?". How can I be used to help meet the needs I am observing? Along with that how can I help others find and fulfill their unique purpose in the body? To discover just how the Spirit has equipped that person you are getting to know. What are they good at? What do they enjoy? What do they have convictions about? What moves and stirs their heart? How can I help see that these gifts find a place? How can I make the most of these gifts? When I need encouragement, I want to go to the person who has the gift of encouragement. When my faith is faltering, I want to go to the person who is gifted with a generous portion of faith so that I can benefit from that gift.
Let's not let our individual viewpoints hinder the body, let's embrace both unity and diversity. Here are some discussion questions to help you talk about this in your community group:
1. Have you ever had one part (maybe a small part) of your body not do it’s part? How did that go?
2. How does the fact that Paul uses ‘Church’ and ‘Christ’ almost interchangeably effect you? What are some implications of this for you?
3. Discuss the difference between unity and uniformity.
4. Can you think of a time when diversity was challenging for you? How about beneficial?
5. Where are you in the process of knowing your own gifts?
6. How can you grow in discovering them and using them?