Sunday, November 8, 2009

Members Belonging to Members

I’ve been pretty much couch bound for the last few days, with a side table full of cold and flu accessories to prove it.  With my head a bit swimmy from the left-over effects of night time cold medicine or the non-drowsy effects of day-time cold medicine, this uncomfortable time of coughing and sneezing has been a really important reminder to me of the body’s members belonging to each other.
When I cough (I promise not to be gross), the lungs work, the muscles in the chest work, and dozens other instantaneous reactions occur.  The lungs trying to rid themselves of something that shouldn’t be there, do not act on their own.  Instead, it is the entire body acting together. 
I recently had a conversation with a friend on the “we” and the “they” of church.  The “they” were acting like a “they” and not a “we.”  Now, if that sounds like it’s written in some code, let me try and decode it for you.   How many times have you looked around in a group of people and thought – they should do… they shouldn’t do…. they did….they didn’t….they being the operative word. Then, think about the same group and same instances, but substitute the word we. 
In a church body, the thought must be we and not they.  Now, by body I do not mean denomination, location, specific church, age group, worship style preference, etc…instead, I mean the entirety of believers as one body.  And members are the cells, the molecules that make up a body.  In Romans 12: 4-5.  “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 who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others
So, when we have a body behaving like a “they” instead of a “we” then, we have a malfunctioning body.  Whose responsibility is it to fix that?  Well, Paul tells us in Romans that each member belongs to all the others.  So, if you are reading this and you are part of the body of Christ, you belong to me and me to you as members of a body, one cell – one molecule each to the other.  But, again – that question comes up – who has to wade in and fix this?
The answer is two parts.  And I love how God’s mind works, so opposite of a human mind, so much bigger and better. 
The first part is that we have to wade in, roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.  And – we will be equipped for this task.  Because, the very next lines in Romans 12 tell us – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
So, we are given gifts, therefore some are cell membranes, some are primary or secondary cell walls, others are cytoplasm, pectin, or enzymes.  Changing the thought process to “we” requires the We to learn about, seek God over, and grow in our gifts.  And then, apply them with much prayer. 
This is only a part of it though, and many times I think that the body gets stuck here.  We may learn about our gifts, try to apply the, and even try apply them with prayer.  But, the second part is to understand our limitations as cell membranes or cytoplasm in the body and to ask for the Lord to change us individually to make what he wants us to be and to pray for the other members.  It is not my job to change someone in the body, but it is my duty to pray for them.  And to pray for them with understanding that they are God’s servant, someone who has been accepted by God.   (Romans 14:1-4) “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Oh, that is such a statement to bring me to humility!  Such a way to say – WE are the Lord’s, not we versus they.  Who am I indeed to judge?  I am just as human, just as prone to sin and failure.  The Lord will work with me, to help me stand.  Instead of passing judgment, I need to pray for those around me to stand.
As I prepare for the Great Banquet, only 5 days away, I will be meeting other members of the body.  They will also be packing their bags, telling their families bye for the weekend, and leaving for the retreat.  I don’t know these other women, but I do know that God knows them. So, they are a part of the “we” if they are believers. 
Knowing that…. Lord, please prepare the hearts of these women for this weekend.  Please let this be a time of refreshing for each of them, restoring them from all of the hurry and frustrations of their days.  Please let Your Voice speak clearly this weekend.  Let the speakers be healthy, anointed by your Spirit and listening to your words as they prepare.  Let your will be clearly shown this upcoming weekend.  May those who host this time be blessed by our presence as they bless us by their time, their serving, and their effort.  We cannot bring peace, healing, guidance, or hope to any that might need it – but you can.  Please prepare us for a powerful weekend, where you are free to move and be heard, and where we are free to act and obey.