A Seemingly Small Part

of God’s work,

1 Corinthians 12

When we think of the ear, we most likely are thinking about those lumpy, peculiar bits of cartilage just on the outside of our head.  While their shape helps us to ping the location of the sound, the majority of the work is being done on the inside.  The eardrum is vibrating, creating the analog beating that is then turned to electronic impulses that our brain interprets.  But even just beyond the eardrum, there is great work happening that is equally important to the overall function and health of the body, although this is assuming you are not hearing alarming noises at the present. Enter the eustachian tube.  It is the gravity-driven country road between the other side of your ear and the top of your throat.  This little pathway is responsible for a couple of very key functions, which you may never be aware of if all is going according to plan.  It sends any junk the ear makes down and out.  It prevents bacteria and any other intruders from creeping up.  But finally, its primary function might just sweep you off your feet, literally.  The regulation of gas and pressure behind our eardrum is important to hearing, but even more important to balance.  If this is the slightest bit off, we may be experiencing a case of vertigo, an internal roller coaster that never leaves the station. The room will spin.  Sweat forms on our brow.  Our eyes jitter.  Our head pounds.  Nausea fills our belly until our body cannot take it any longer and we “blow chunks” as one might put it more indelicately. Oh, and yes, you may lose your hearing too.  All because a space less than a quarter of a square inch doesn’t have the right amount of pressurized gas.

In Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks of the ear, but also hands, feet, and eyes.  The metaphors for the functions of each part of our body are endless.  Physically, we can “survive” without some parts, but we recognize that functioning as a whole is disabled because something, or to Paul’s analogy, someone, is missing.  While it may be more obvious when a man or woman is missing an eye or a digit, it is equally important to recognize when we are missing the kidneys and a liver which are removing the poison, or the amygdala which is controlling our rage and lashing out, and yes, the eustachian tube which is providing a steady balance.  These parts are easily overlooked, and many times, the people fulfilling these roles are not only disregarded, but are themselves unaware they are doing them.  These aren’t the folks performing miracles, preaching in the street, or speaking in tongues.  These are the ones who watchfully discern, the ones who are unflinchingly faithful, who make and show perfect peace, and those who have an infinite amount of helping hands to extend.  These are of special modesty, but of equal concern (v.25).

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” – 1 Corinthians 12:18

Now, for the bit with application.  We often give much love to the “showier” bits.  Those who take on a responsibility during a worship service or teach a class, but for a moment, think about the hidden parts among your church body.  Who stands watch (physically or emotionally) at the door of your church?  Who finds a way to create harmony between a foot and a hand vying for the same attention? Who shares their faith when doubt is beginning to spread among the believers?  It is time to take notice.  To recognize. Find a way to show this part of the body some love today. A call, a text, a card, a small token, or a chore done.  It is a very important bit of “self” care. Chances are they will be modest.  They will say they aren’t really doing anything important.  The truth is, they might be the very part keeping the church on their feet, preventing potential headaches, heading off a building rejection of the stomach, or simply lending a listening ear.  If they suffer, so do we, BUT if they rejoice, so do we.  We absolutely need all the parts to be the church we are called to be.

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.” – 1 Corinthians 12:22-24a

–Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Nehemiah 11-13 and 1 Corinthians 12

Knowledge Puffs Up, But Love Builds Up

1 Corinthians 8

Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.

Would it surprise you to know that in a discussion about issues that people disagree on, Paul would bring up the subject of pride?  The Corinthians disagreed on a lot, what to eat, how to worship, what was moral behavior, and more.  Paul kind of leads with this in chapter one (1:10) saying that he ‘appealed to them’ to get rid of the divisions and live in unity with one another.

Now here, in chapter 8, Paul is in the middle of working through one of their many dividing issues.  But instead of focusing on the issue, I’d like to hone in on some wisdom that Paul shares about unity in the body.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”

We shouldn’t be mistaken.  Paul is not saying that knowledge itself is bad, or that the desire to pursue knowledge is in itself prideful.  He’s not suggesting that we should pursue love instead of pursuing knowledge.  Not at all.  It seems that what Paul is concerned with is what that knowledge does in us and how we share that knowledge.

Do you like to be the smartest person in the room.  That’s pride.

Do you use your tone of voice to make people feel dumb because they don’t know what you do.  That’s pride.

And here’s an important thing to note… we’ll only really know that we are building up (or edifying) with our knowledge by how others respond.  Edifying is not something we can claim.

“I hereby edify you!”

Nope.  Not how it works.

If you think that you are sharing your knowledge with love, it will be evident by the unity that you are helping to create.  When Scripture calls us to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9, James 3:18) it implies actively building peace and unity.  Being a peacemaker is more than just not shooting anyone.  A peacemaker makes peace as opposed to division, they edify and build up those around them.

Picture a person filled with knowledge who you just love to be around because of the way they make you want to know more, to be better, simply because of the kindness and grace with which they speak.  Their whole demeanor draws you to them.  Sounds a lot like Jesus, if you ask me.  It also sounds like the kind of person Paul is calling us to be.

 

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

Peacemakers

blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God

The older I get, the more I realize I’m an exact replica of my mom. We like the same movies, we think (and overthink) the same things, we’re both textbook ISFJ’s, and we both spend hours looking at houses for sale that we’ll never afford. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” If we’re children of God, we should strive to be like God, reflecting His character. When people see us, they should see the love of God in our lives.

In the face of conflict, it’s hard to be love. We often want to be right more than we want to be love. Jesus, however, is the perfect example of how to be love in the face of conflict. We often overlook that he was a human just like us; his challenges, even 2,000 years ago, are a lot like our challenges. This week, we’ve tried to answer how Jesus resolved conflict to give us insight into how to deal with our own conflicts.

Jesus resolved conflict with great urgency. Stop running away from conflict no matter how overwhelming or scary the problem may be. Don’t let unresolved conflict fester; instead, deal with it directly and quickly.

Jesus was a persistent diplomat. Jesus gave us a three-step plan to dealing with sin and conflict within the church. First, go to the culprit alone, then bring another trusted member or two of the church with you, and finally bring the conflict to the church as a whole. We don’t have the power to save people, but we can be patient, loving, persistent, and cover them with prayer.

Jesus saw each conflict as an opportunity for grace. Jesus preached that if someone hits you, don’t hit back; instead, turn your other cheek. We have the chance to be love to someone who may have never truly experienced how intense and whole God’s love is. Sure, they might not deserve grace, but neither did we.

Jesus disciplined out of love. Ah yes, Jesus flipped tables and even fashioned his own whip. Love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies; sometimes, it’s a harsh slap to the hand. As brothers and sisters, we’re supposed to refine each other so that we may all follow Jesus a little closer every day.

Jesus embodied forgiveness. Just as you have experienced the joy and freedom that forgiveness brings, give that same joy to someone else. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Jesus submitted to God’s will even when it was hard. Jesus’ submission led him to the cross. God has prepared a cup for you, too, representing His will for your life. Will you be obedient to what God has filled your cup with?

My prayer is that you feel encouraged and equipped to tackle the conflicts in your life with love just as Jesus did.

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Conflict Within the Church

speaking the truth I love-2

Jesus makes a distinction between conflict outside and within the Church. The bonds we have with people in the Church are different—we’re brothers and sisters. As brothers and sisters, we have an obligation to correct, discipline, and mentor each other. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Just like rubbing iron together creates friction, there is sometimes friction in our relationships, especially when sin tries to sneak its way between us. Sin and conflict, if not handled properly, can fracture the unity of the Church. Jesus’ passion was the Church, He went as far as dying on a cross for the sake of preserving the Church for all eternity. Sin is the enemy of Jesus’ preservation mission, so we must handle sin and conflict inside the Church carefully but also with great urgency. Fortunately for us, Jesus lays out a three-step plan to dealing with trouble in our churches.

In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

The first step when a problem arises in the Church is to go directly to the culprit in private—doing so with love, mercy, and understanding. Jesus says it’s our responsibility to resolve conflict whether we’re the ones causing it or not. As peacemakers, we get the privilege in joining Jesus in his mission of preserving the Church. If the culprit listens and repents, congrats, you’ve completed your mission in record timing. If your mission was unsuccessful, don’t give up just yet. The next step is to take along another trusted member or two of the Church to confront the culprit. There is power in numbers. If the culprit refuses to listen yet again, bring the issue to the Church itself. This is the Hail Mary attempt. Pull out every stop and go the extra 500 zillion miles, praying that God will multiply your efforts. Up until this point, Jesus’ objective has been mercy, but if this final step fails, justice takes over. This unrepentant culprit is now considered  a Gentile or tax collector, meaning he is no longer a part of the community of believers. Paul draws upon Jesus’ teaching in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, saying, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” If this is the fate of your mission, find peace in the fact that you are not responsible for changing hearts. You can love people, but you don’t have the authority and power to save them.

Today, pray for your church. This amazing connection we have to each other as believers of the one true God is frail and fragile in this broken world. Where there is a crack, more sin and troubles are sure to find their way in, so we must confront each crack diligently, following the procedure Jesus lays out for us in Matthew 18. Yes, confrontation is uncomfortable, but so was being nailed on a cross. Jesus never said it would be easy; he said it would be worth it.

 

-Mackenzie McClain