Permit me a moment, as I promised earlier, to talk about the church as a body not a bunch, an organism not an organization. Have you heard people say, “I don’t see the point of being a member of the church. It doesn’t really matter if my name is on a church roll.”?
The idea of being a member is a beautiful and organic metaphor for the fellowship and belonging we have with one another in the body of Christ. Consider the difference in saying a Baptist church is a body of baptized believers and saying a Baptist church is a bunch of people who get together regularly after being baptized as believers.
If you remove an onion from a bunch of onions you buy at Kroger’s, the other onions feel no pain, experience no loss. But if you try to take the finger nail from my little finger, I will scream with pain. My whole body feels the trauma. Our bodies are linked by nerves and blood vessels, muscles and ligaments and tendons, and not one part can be wounded without the whole body feeling the pain.
You can buy “dismemberment” insurance to compensate you if you should lose a limb. Your arms, legs, hands and feet, e.g. are “members” of your body. So when we talk about being baptized into the body of Christ we are talking about that wonderful and mysterious unity we have in Christ. We are remembering Paul’s words in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 where we are told there must be no jealousy in the body with the hand having no use for the foot, or the eye not appreciating the importance of the ear.
This is not an easy thing to experience. It is a real thing, this unity in Christ, but it has to be treasured and protected. It can be marred and destroyed. But when the pastor and the people are all praying for the unity of the body in the Spirit of Christ and everyone is seeking to honor one another, carry one another’s burdens, and refuse to undermine by gossip and rumor the unity of the body… then a beautiful reality begins to show itself and people are drawn to Christ because of the way his people, “love one another.”
Evangelist Larry Walker, years ago shared a poem with my church and I remember this one line: In the church, when one of us cries, we all taste the salt.
When that is true, it is a powerful witness to the glory and grace of God, to the fellowship the Spirit can produce and the love which is shed abroad in our hearts because we have been loved enough that Jesus Christ would die for us.