Body Language

Good afternoon! Before we dive into the Scripture for today, I would like to share with you a story from Irv Brendlinger’s book, The Call to Authenticity. In this book, Irv tells a story by Philip Yancy about his friend Carolyn.

“I have a bright, talented, and very funny friend in Seattle named Carolyn Martin. But Carolyn has cerebral palsy, and it is the peculiar tragedy of her condition that its outward sings – floppy arm movements, drooling, inarticulate speech, and a bobbing head – cause people who meet her to wonder if she is retarded. Actually, her mind is the one part of her that works perfectly; it is muscular control that she lacks.
Carolyn lived for fifteen years in a home of the mentally retarded, because the state had no other place for her. Her closest friends were people like Larry, who tore all his clothes off and ate the institution’s houseplants, and Arelene, who knew only three sentences and called everyone “Mama.” Carolyn determined to escape from that home and to find meaningful place for herself in the outside world.
Eventually, she did manage to move out and establish a home of her own. There, the simplest chores posed an overwhelming challenge for Carolyn. It took her three months to learn to brew a pot of tea and pour it into cups without scalding herself. But she mattered that feat, and many others. She enrolled in high school, graduated, and then signed up for community college.
Everyone on campus knew Carolyn as “the disabled person”. They would see her sitting in a wheelchair, hunched over, painstakingly typing out notes on a device called a Canon Communicator. Few felt comfortable talking with her; they could not follow her jumbled sounds. But Carolyn persevered, stretching out a two- year Associate of Arts degree program over seven years. Next, she enrolled in a Lutheran college to study the Bible. After two years there, she was asked to speak to her fellow students in chapel.
Carolyn worked many hours on her address. She typed out the final draft – at her average speed of forty-five minutes a page – and asked her friends Josee to read it for her Josee had a strong, clear voice.
On the day of chapel service, Carolyn sat slumped in her wheelchair on the left side of the platform. At times her arms jerk uncontrollably, her head lolled to one side so that it almost touched her shoulder, and a stream of saliva sometimes ran down her blouse. Beside her stood Josee, who read the mature and graceful prose Carolyn had composed, centered around this Bible text: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God but not for us”
For the first time, some students saw Carolyn as a complete human being, like themselves. Before then her mind, a “disobedient” body had, always inhibited a very good mind, and difficulties with speech had masked her intelligence. But hearing her address read aloud as they looked at her onstage, the students could see past the body in a wheelchair and imagine a whole person.
Carolyn told me about that day in her halting speech, and I would understand only about half the words. But the scene she described became for me a kind of parable of the church: a perfect mind locked inside a spastic body, and vocal chords that failed at every second syllable. The New Testament image of Christ as Head of the body took on new meaning for me. I gained a sense of both the humiliation that Christ undergoes in his role as head, and also the exaltation that he allows us, the members of his body.”

I think this story illustrates well the state of the church right now. Paul talks about the church as a body in I Corinthians. If you have your bibles, turn to I Corinthians 12:12-31. Paul writes:

12 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. 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 cease to be part of the body. 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 cease to be part of the body. 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? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Before we take a look at what Paul means in this passage, we need to understand a little bit about the purpose of this letter to the Corinthians. First, Paul has received an oral report Chloe’s household that the church is struggling with some very important theological issues. Also, Paul has received a letter in Corinth asking for his delegation on some conflicts within the church. Now this part of the letter to the Corinthians was addressed to how the church should function and how the Corinthians should be using their gifts. We also must understand that this church was filled with many spiritual gifts, but they were not using them in a Christian manner. So lets analyze Paul’s analogy of the church being the body of Christ and what it means for us today.

First of all, as Paul suggested in the Scripture we as the church are the body of Christ. We enter into this body through recognition that Christ is Lord and by being baptized into the body. Although we are one body, we are all unique. We see an example of this in Romans 12:4-5, which states, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function. So in Christ we, through many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Another example of the church being one body with different parts is through language. Now most of us speak one language, but within that language there are different sounds and compounds that make up our language. Without different and unique sounds that come together to make a whole, we could not effectively communicate with one another. This applies to the church because we are not an effective organism without one another. Now, you might ask what I mean by “effective.” In I Corinthians 12:27, which states, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,” Paul is telling us as a church that we are the reincarnation of Christ. Therefore, we need to be teaching what Christ taught as well as caring for one another and the people outside of the church, just as Christ did. If we are acting as Christ did, then the organism is being effective.

Now as we talk about being an effective organism or body, we must recognize that Christ is the head. Colossians 1:17-18 says, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body. The church.” As we think of the idea of Christ being the head of the body, we need to ask ourselves what is the purpose of the head. When I think about the head, the first thing that come to mind is the brain. Now, in a working brain it controls everything we do including our movements, our language, and our decisions. I have been around the church since I was very young and I have come to realize that sometimes we do not view Christ as our head. The church today looks more like a body that has Cerebral Palsy. Looking at the story Carolyn as well as looking at my body we can see that we have a great mind or head, but our body is disobedient. Just as we don’t recognize Christ as our head, we are disobedient to Him and cannot be the incarnation of Him since we are not living by His leadership.

Now the question is, “How can we apply being an effective body to ourselves today?” I do realize that this is a fairly complex question that has many answers, but today I’ll focus on one. We must use the gifts that God has given us to further Christ’s Kingdom. Paul talks about Spiritual gifts such as prophecy and tongues in I Corinthians 12:4-11. Although those are gifts of the Spirit there are many more gifts we have that are not necessarily spiritual, but God still uses to further His Kingdom. For example, being savvy at technology is not listed as a Spiritual Gift, but can be used to reach people visually. Once we have figured what our gifts are, we must use them, as Paul puts it, for the “common good.” In other words, we must use our gifts along side one another under the leadership of the Christ to be an effective body.

In conclusion, we are the body of Christ and we must use our gifts under the direction of Christ in order to be an effective representative of Christ.

Share This Post:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top