For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
—1 Corinthians 12:12, 26
The church at Corinth was a church divided against itself. Due to the hardness of their hearts, Paul writes to a communion that has been ripe with strife, dissected over their leaders and over life broken apart rather than together. They were a people shaped by their own self-interests rather than the Word of God. Even at the Lord’s table, they displayed their idolatrous ways where there was no concern for one another, but only their own appetites and desires.
The conflict at Corinth is not unlike what so often is manifested in congregations and even in the Synod when people live for themselves. To such a mindset, Paul addresses them not as individuals, but as a whole. The metaphor which he uses to describe their connection is that of a body. Within the body, though there are many members, they are all part of the whole and this means that they are connected with one another. The only way that we could be connected with one another is through Christ, into whom we were baptized and who continues to come to us through His Word and Sacrament. We are not a group of people who are banded together out of common interests. We are actually a diverse group of people who have been united not because of what we think or say or do, but based upon Christ and what His Word says and what He has done for us on the cross.
Paul describes a body where the parts are assembled as a greater whole and all the parts of the body are show love and concern for the others. “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) This is our hope and prayer for our congregations. Congregations need not be a collection of groups based upon age or interest, race or status. Instead, those baptized into Christ live and love and serve together as one body, showing compassion and concern for all of the members of the body. By God’s grace, we can live as a united body rather than a just an assembly of various parts. That is why Paul writes to the Corinthians. But sin is why he has to keep writing to them. Similarly, in our life together, we will fall back into our old, selfish attitudes, just like the Corinthians. But by God’s grace and mercy, the Holy Spirit can draw us back to Christ and to one another in repentance and faith so that we might truly be one body together, whether suffering or rejoicing. May God save us from ourselves so that, in Christ, we might be united.
Prayer – Almighty God our heavenly Father, by Your Word and Spirit, break down and hinder every attempt to separate and divide Your people so that we might live together as one body in Christ. When we fail to show love and mercy to other members of Your body, forgive and restore us. We give thanks to You that You have made us one through the precious blood of Christ. Help us to never doubt Your promises and Your power that are at work in our congregations and Synod; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan