By The Right Revd Michael Perham
Paul is leaving behind his teaching about eating the bread that is Christ’s body to think instead about being the body of Christ. “Discerning the body,” which is what he has written about in Chapter 11, now becomes a matter of understanding oneself to be a limb or organ of the body, crucial to its well-being, but only in relation to others and always in relation to the head, Christ himself.
Paul wants us to explore the body’s diversity. Not everyone has the same gift. The Spirit is at work differently in the variety of people who make up the body. But his principal point is to remind us that, whatever the diversity might be, there is only one body and by our baptism we were called into that one body. Having a sense of belonging to the body is crucial. The truth is, of course, that the body of Christ, the Church, is broken, injured and wounded by misunderstanding and strife. Rebuilding is needed. Much of 1 Corinthians is about that rebuilding.
Nehemiah is dealing with a similar problem. It’s the fifth century before Christ and Jerusalem has been destroyed. Rebuilding the city will also rebuild the self respect and the sense of identity of the nation and Nehemiah sets about the task. Just like the limbs and organs of the body, the priests and levites bring their differing skills to the task. They work almost as one body as they rebuild.
What are the areas of life where God is asking you to do some rebuilding?
The variety of the Spirit’s gifts sometimes seems to bring disunity in the Church. How can you try to ensure your gifts deepen the unity of the Body of Christ?
Holy Spirit, come, renew your gifts within me and make them instruments of unity in the building up of the body of Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Right Revd Michael Perham is Bishop of Gloucester in England.