When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he called them something awesome: “You are the body of Christ”. This group of not-very-perfect people in big, bad Corinth expressed Christ all on their own – fully.
But maybe you want to correct Paul: “Hang on there, Mr Apostle: they are part of the body of Christ – don’t forget those Christians up in Thessalonica or over the bay in Ephesus? Not to mention further afield?”
Most Christians know “the body of Christ” means the church – but they get twitchy about any one church being “the body of Christ”. “Part of the body” of the body seems more correct, not so OTT – safer.
Yet the body of Christ is most powerfully real where people are joined together in day-to-day life. “I’m a part of the whole body of Christ across the world” may be true enough (and wonderful in its way), but if you don’t actually belong to specific people it’s dangerously airy-fairy.
The more you belong to the brothers and sisters you’re actually with, the more you belong to the body of Christ. The whole body was at Corinth. The whole body was at Thessalonica. And Ephesus. The whole body is a reality in any church where there is lasting commitment to God and to each other. God has not scattered limbs and organs across the world. Whenever even two or three gather – commit to each other, lay down their lives – Christ is there [Matt.18:20].
Then – and only then – a big bogeyman is given the death sentence: independence .
Independence – so prized by the world’s spirit! – is the big enemy of “body of Christ” reality.
And independence often wears a devout mask: “I’ll go where the Lord calls me!” (Translated: “I’ll go where I like and never limit my options.”) In the New Testament, people weren’t “called” – if by “called” you mean getting a personal “phone call from God”. Even Paul, who certainly was “called to be an apostle”, only set off apostling when God spoke to his church, in Antioch [Acts 13:1-3].
Relationships in this kind of body go very deep. “We are members of one another”; “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice” [Rom.12:5, 1Cor.12:26]
But we won’t get it on the cheap. How about total loyalty to the body you belong to? Never leave unless you’re commissioned and sent.
Be the body of Christ: deal the death-blow to your independence.