When I was a kid, which is to say, when I knew everything, my Mom used to ask me, “Tommy, don’t you think this world would be boring if everyone was just like you?” Apparently she underestimated my pride. “No, it would be perfect,” I countered. “Everything would be well ordered. There wouldn’t be any fighting because we’d all be the same, and there would never be anything left unfinished.”
God knew I would answer my Mom the way that I did, that’s why He wrote this two thousand years earlier. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many...If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing?...But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member (or just like you), where would the body be?” (1 Corinthians 12:14,17-19)
I think sometimes we fall back into this uniformity mindset. We’re sinners, and when sinners rub against sinners you get flames. Which makes some of us wish that God had made the world the same, and by same, we mean like us, which is of course, the best option.
But God didn’t make us the same; we’re a body of believers, not an army of robots, and the implications are numerous.
Open Season for Grace
Not being a robot means it’s open season for grace, and this cuts both ways. Heads need to be gracious to toes, and stop wishing they’d act more like heads, and toes need to be more gracious to heads, and stop idolizing their function as a head. Heads cannot say to toes, “Forget it, I’ll do it myself.” I don’t know how closely you’ve looked at a head, but it hasn’t been designed to support a foot and balance a body like a toe has.
Only God would give a toe the same dignity and value as a head, and that’s just what He does. Through faith in the gospel, we’ve been brought into the Body of Christ. Which is a universal body, made up men and women from all sorts of walks. We have tribesman from Mozambique, actors from Hollywood, Chinese men and women flourishing under persecution, and happy, passive Canadians ( *wink*).
The point being: the Church is diverse; even in the New Testament the Church was diverse; Jesus had tax men like Matthew and pious Pharisees like Paul; two men from different ends of the spectrum, greatly differing in gifting and calling, yet equal in the value they offered the body. In such diversity opportunities for friction are numerous and that means opportunities for grace abound.
Let Faith Abound
Do you know what a robot can’t do? Express faith. A robot doesn’t wrestle with a decision, it simply responds to a series of programmed 1’s and 0’s. But you’re not a robot, and I bet sometimes that really bothers you. Because then you’d be the star just like your favorite celebrity Pastor or rock-star musician. But you're not, you’re just an ear, and ears don’t get asked to speak at conferences or go on worldwide tours.
But do you know what that means Ear? It means you get to have faith that God thoughtfully made you an ear; He wasn’t napping when your number got called. Paul reminds us, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”
Your struggle is faith; do you trust that God created and gifted you accordingly to serve the Body of Christ for your good and His glory, or do you believe God made a mistake?
Not being a robot means you get to trust that God is God: all knowing, all wise, all good, and all powerful. It’s to trust that he’s for you and that 1 Corinthians 12:22 is true: “The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
Contagious Honor and Suffering
The beauty of the Church is found in our one-anotherness. Remember when you were a kid and you used to have 3-legged races? Remember how difficult it was if you got paired with someone much taller or shorter or less athletic than you? The Church is kind of like that. You take two (or a couple hundred) people, duct tape them together, and say, “go and make disciples.”
The key to winning a 3-legged race is unison; it’s not about the strong carrying the weak, it’s about rhythm. Both people must step in rhythm for the two bodies to work as one or else you’ll fall on your face at step one.
Which means the taller person needs to take shorter strides and the faster person needs to slow up. It means patience, condescension, and love must be operating.
Robots don’t play this way; they aren’t concerned with condescension or helping their fellow bot, but we’re not robots, we’re little christs, and Paul would exhort us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26). So when an ear does an amazing job at hearing, the whole body - from the toes on up to the head - should cheer for the ear and celebrate their gift of hearing. Or when a finger breaks, the whole body should feel the pain as our shared nervous system fires off pain signals.
In a world that values uniformity, we are in a special position to image the gospel of Jesus. To show the world that grace and forgiveness and selflessness trump personal preferences, that honor and suffering are shared experiences that we willingly walk into, and that strength and beauty aren't in sameness, but in variance.