1 Corinthians 12:12-20
How many of you dislike the part of our service when we ask you to greet each other?
It’s ok. You can be honest.
There are all kinds of reason for people to either like or dislike that part of the service. I like it. I’m a greeting kind of person.
So far in our series we have talked about the uncomfortableness of the cross and the fact that the Christian life never included a promise of comfort.
Today we are going to talk about this phrase “Uncomfortable People.”
Something that has been said about ministry and about church is that the best and worst part about ministry and church is people.
The author of the book “Uncomfortable” references what he calls some of the weird church-people types. I’ll give you a few.
-The overaggressive hugger who always bypasses a side hug and goes straight for the full-on hug.
-The under-aggressive people who never know if they should hug you or shake your hand, so you get caught in that in between place where no one knows what to do
-The person who asks overly personal questions when you don’t even know for sure who they are
-The overly expressive worshipper (that would be me)
-The person who has shaken hands with you 12 times and still can’t remember your name
-The person who offers you unsolicited “biblical advice” about your life who has only talked to you on one or two other occasions
Do any of these sound familiar? Something we have to be aware of is that “we should not expect our church, or any church, to be free of people who annoy us. And that’s a good thing. Because at the end of the day these are your people and you are called to love them.
Scott Sauls says being part of a local church means “joining your imperfect self to many other imperfect selves to form an imperfect community that, through Jesus, embarks on a journey toward a better future…together.”
This is the uncomfortable but beautiful struggle of being the church.
Charles Spurgeon said, “the church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow believers.”
#1- Everyone is welcome and has a part to play in the body of believers
1 Corinthians 12:12-20
Unity and Diversity in the Body
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] 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. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Here Paul uses the example of a body to represent the church. The body has many parts and for a body to function at its highest level each part has to do their part. He also draws our attention to the fact that without certain body parts the body would completely lose a function or a sense. For example, if the whole body were an ear where would the sense of smell be? Without all different kinds of people with different gifts and abilities and interests we would be completely limited in what we could accomplish as a church.
1 Corinthians 12:12
When I was a teenager I was part of the Bible Quiz program at our church. One year we quizzed on 1 and 2 Corinthians. One day we were at the home of one of the girls on my quiz team and we were studying 1 Corinthians 12 for our next meet. Our youth pastor was our coach and he asked each of us to memorize 1 Corinthians 12:12. We all spent some time individually learning the verse. Then he would bring us back together and we would each try to quote the verse. If any one person in our group didn’t know the verse completely he would make us hole hands and run around the outside of the house. Eventually we all learned the verse, but we did a lot of running first. Why did he do that? It wasn’t abusive or anything, so calm down if you think that was a terrible idea. He was trying to prove the verse to us. He was telling us that as a team we weren’t going to be any good if only one person put the effort into memorizing verses. The way Bible quiz matches worked was, there were 20 questions that were either 10, 20, or 30 points each. If someone answered 6 questions correctly they quizzed out and left the game but got bonus points for the quiz out. The problem is, if you have one person quiz out that leaves 14 questions that the other team could answer and still win the match. In other words, having one person who knew all the material was not going to win you a match. Everyone needed to learn the material if we had any hope of winning.
The Christian life cannot be an individual affair. Yes, we each have the responsibility to take care of our personal spiritual growth because without that we cannot be who God has called us to be, but we were never meant to live out our Christian lives in isolation. Church is not “an optional add-on to one’s solitary faith journey.”
Two weeks ago, I talked to you about the danger of church shopping or the idea that we only stay at a church as long as we are getting what we want from it without committing to the church ourselves. “We shouldn’t look for a church that will change to fit us. We should look for one where we will be change to better represent Christ.”
Everyone is welcome and has a part to play. We cannot do this alone. This church could not fully function without all the people here. If you looked around at all the moving parts that involve the work of volunteers on any given Sunday morning you would realize that this church is much more than just me and the other staff. It’s even more than the people who do nursery, and teach Sunday school, and the ushers and greeters. It’s you. You coming here. You bringing people with you. It’s all of us working together to make this place what it is. One body. Many, many, many parts.
#2- Being part of the church is really hard
I’m going to ask a fairly personal question here, but I want you to answer by raising your hand.
How many of you have ever been hurt in some way by someone in the church? It doesn’t have to be this church, maybe it was a church you previously attended.
Look around. There are many of us.
Another question. How many of you have ever been hurt in some way by one of your friends or someone in your family who didn’t attend your church?
People are people. Being in any kind of relationship with someone makes you vulnerable to hurts. We often look at hurts from people within the church as particularly painful or appalling even, but in the midst of it all I think we forget that people are people and that hurts will come at us from people regardless of where we choose to spend our time and energy.
“The reality is, living in a community with people, especially people different from ourselves, is really, really hard.” (McCracken, Uncomfortable, 125)
Paul emphasizes in our scripture from earlier that we are all part of the same body. Another way to read Paul’s words in verse 13 is like this “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body- regardless of background, nationality, social status, political belief, or any other arbitrary dividing lines that don’t matter in the kingdom of God.”
No one in our body of believers is less than anyone else. We are all very different and that could cause division if we allowed it. We are all different, but we are all important. We often allow differences to divide us, but we are united under the greatest cause for unity, our love for Jesus.
We can always come up with reasons for why we don’t like someone. We can always be quick to judge each other and are often easily offended by each other. Those things do not change just because we are in the church together. There are people here who will still offend you or judge you. And you might still offend someone and judge them. Yep, I said it.
Being part of the church is hard because the church is made up of people who you will not always get along with and you will not always agree with, but as a body of believers we are called to do more than just get along. We have a purpose and we cannot fulfill the purposes of God without each other.
And, we need each other.
I’m going to share with you four “family values” found in the New Testament among the early church that are meant for us as a church family today.
1- We share our stuff with one another. This was very literal in the New Testament and I think it’s meant to be that way now. That could mean helping meet a financial need or offering someone a place to stay. Matt was in an accident a few weeks ago, right as we were planning to make the final move into our house. The accident left us without a truck and trailer which was what we planned to use to move our stuff. So, what happened the day Matt wanted to move the big items? Two guys with two trucks, from the church, show up and help move all the big stuff.
2- We share our hearts with one another. There’s a vulnerability that we should have with other believers. You need to have people who you can talk to about what’s going on in your life and in your walk with Jesus. We need to be open enough with each other to have real conversations with each other about real things. I’m not saying post about your private life on social media and wait for Christians to comment on it. That’s oversharing. We need to have people who we can talk to who will encourage us but also hold us accountable because that’s what we’re supposed to be for each other.
3- We stay, embrace the pain, and grow up with one another. Wesley Hill, in his book Spiritual Friendship describes this concept in this way “What I and others like me are yearning for isn’t just a weekly night out or a circle of people with whom to go on vacation. We need something more. We need people who know what time our plane lands, who will worry about us when we don’t show up at the time we said we would. We need people we can call and tell about the funny thing that happened in the hallway after class. We need the assurance that, come hell or high water, a few people will stay with us, loving us in spite of our faults and caring for us when we’re down.” Relationships within the family of God will sometimes require us to stay, to deal with more than we bargained for, and grow together through the process.
4- Family is more than “me, the wife, and the kids.” Or the husband and kids or the grandkids of the whoever makes up your blood family. Family is important. But when you enter into the body of believers you enter into a giant family that includes people who are not biologically related to you. So sometimes your focus has to be on people who aren’t your “family.” There are people in our church who don’t have much by the way of family. Maybe their family lives away or they have never been married so they don’t have a spouse or kids. Maybe they’ve lost most of their family. The stories are all different. There are people in this building who need to know that they can look to the rest of us as family even though we aren’t their flesh and blood.
Life in the body of Christ “should be about entering one another’s spaces often and sharing life together rather than separating into private enclaves as soon as the Sunday morning service lets out.” (McCracken, Uncomfortable, 132-133)
#3- Although we are different, we are united in the most important way- by the Spirit
The church is made up of people who have all experienced something life changing- repentance from sin and the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This creates a bond in us that can transcend any other barrier, difference, dividing line, preference, challenge, or search for comfort that could ultimately divide us.
The church is made up of people who have the most important thing in common and sometimes our best option is to remember that fact. We connect with people in our church family who we might never have naturally connected to in any other way. You’ve met people in this building who have become important to you whom you may never have met if you hadn’t gone to church with them.
I met by best friend when I was 6 years old. We met at church. We went to different schools, lived in different states, our parents didn’t know each other before we went to church together. She lived on a farm and throughout the years she would join 4-H and Future Farmers of America while I had absolutely no interest in showing pigs at the fair which she loved. We have many similarities that have bonded us over the years but there are so many things about us that are different. The thing that has always been constantly the same between the two of us is the fact that we love Jesus.
You might be able to think of a relationship like that in your own life. We are called to love each other. We are called to live in community with each other. We are called to grow together as a body of believers as we endeavor to share the gospel of Jesus to people who haven’t heard.
Will we always get along? No.
Will we always agree with each other? No.
Wil Satan do his best to try to tear us apart? Yes.
Why? Because if he can get any of us to think that someone else who loves Jesus and is part of our church family is someone that we can’t love or can’t get along with, then he’s got us.
We were all sinners separated from God, but then someone told us about Jesus and we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. And along with the greatest gift of salvation we got this giant family full of people who want us to live our best lives and will do whatever they can to help us fulfill the purposes that God has for us.
Isn’t that great?
So what does this mean for us today?
1. We each need to recognize that everyone is welcome in the family of God and we all have a specific part to play.
2. We need to remember that being part of the church is really hard. Sometimes we will disagree because we are different. But being part of the church means that we gain so much more than we give and even when it’s hard it is necessary for our own personal growth as believers and for the growth of the church.
3. We need to rest in the fact that the things that could divide us are never as important as the one thing that unites us… Jesus.
This series by Pastor Kristin is based on the book, Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.