1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NIV
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
How many churches are in the world today? That question may be a bit beyond the scope of our immediate trivia knowledge. Let’s try another question. How many Churches are there in the world today? See what I did there? A capital “C” puts the question in an entirely different category. There is only one Church, only one Body of Christ, according to the Scriptures. Jesus alone knows who is in his Church. The parable of the sheep and the goats is a parable for our time, but at the end of the day, there is only one flock of sheep. And Jesus knows each sheep by name (John 10:3).
The Holy Spirit, in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, communicates to us that if we were baptized by one Holy Spirit, then we are a part of the one Body of Christ. We all drink the water of God’s love and power at the same fountain. Like little children on the playground, we may try to push one another away to get our turn, hog the fountain, or put our claim on it. But there is plenty for everyone, and, if you look around, there are many fountains at which to drink the same living water.
The Holy Spirit is all about making—bringing together—the Body of Christ. We are one Body, but there are many parts taking their place to embody Jesus’ life and ministry in their unique locales and neighborhoods across the planet. When we start complaining about the rest of the Church, or if we even lose ourselves in a whine-fest complaining in sweeping terms about how broken we as the Church are, I believe we have stepped over a very important line.
First of all, when we complain about the Church as a whole, that is just a sorry, weak, lazy, and distorted replacement for biblical lament. We are welcomed to lament, to grieve, and to pray for the Body of Christ when seeming fractures and relational puzzles emerge. But it seems that God’s Word gives us no quarter to stand as judge and jury over what is happening with our brothers and sisters in different parts of the Body.
Secondly, when we stage a whine-fest complaining in sweeping terms about how broken we are as the Church, it is like declaring: “I know all and see all, and this Body is a mess. It’s a hot mess, I tell you.” At that point, we are on the wrong side of God. Do we really think the gates of hell are prevailing against the Church, even when Jesus said they would not (Matt. 16:18)? No, they are not. Times are hard, yes. But the Spirit sees the true, robust, and unconquerable Body of Jesus rising with him toward the day New Creation’s dawn breaks on the earth. Full stop. The Body of Christ is beautiful, and strong, and always the Beloved of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is a Body Builder, and that is who we are to become as well if the Spirit lives in us. If we spend our time lost in complaint we are spending our energies in the opposite direction in which the Spirit is spending the Spirit’s energies. Jesus is about building his Church, and the gates of hell will not topple it, divide it, or diffuse it’s power.
Let’s turn our energies to pray for the Body of Christ in all its local forms to learn what it means to live in union with the Father and the Son once more. Then, let’s pray for the unity that flows out of that intimacy. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the capacity for unity in a fallen world. The Body of Christ is designed to be a sign, a wonder, a declaration that unity can occur in any age.
Jesus, I receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive me if I have become discouraged about the state of your Church and spoken ill of your Body; I don’t see all, and I repent. Come, Holy Spirit, turn the lament and grief in my heart to praise and prayer for your Kingdom to come in the beautiful Body of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What good, right, and lovely things do you see happening in and through the Church across the world?
For the awakening,