I think we can all agree that the last several months have truly been tragic in so many different ways. And yet, I have been amazed at the power of God’s people to strengthen one another through these difficulties; even without being physically present. Our current circumstances have magnified the incredible power behind God’s plan for the church and also the need for God’s people to commit themselves to being an active part of the body of Christ all the time.
Before I go further, I think it is valuable to first define the body of Christ. It is one of a few names for the church that Christ established.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
“And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Colossians 1:18
Even the word church may not be defined the way you might think. So much of my life, I understood “church” to mean a building or a place…”I go to church”. While it is often used that way, it is more accurately a group of people assembling or gathering and when used in the New Testament, that gathering is for the cause of Christ. As is common with me, I love the beautiful simplicity given by a kids song definition of the church…“the church is Christian people”.
In these difficult circumstances, I have been amazed at the incredible power I’ve witnessed from the body of Christ at work. In my own church family, I watched people meet financial and household needs that came up almost instantly. I was inundated with phone calls and sweet cards to check in on us and ensure we were doing well. Several people would drive by just to deliver goodies and wave to us and we live 45 minutes away from most everyone! We have grieved with each other over tragic deaths and prayed for those who are sick. I was amazed that despite losing the opportunity to be physically around each other, we were able to stay so close. However, I shouldn’t have been surprised…we were family before the pandemic and this family has been there for me so many times before. Like when my back went out recently and I had 3 volunteers to come help me with the kids within minutes. Or when I had my 2nd child and I had meals delivered for almost 3 weeks (and I’d like to say again, we live 45 minutes from our church building).
It wasn’t just in my own church family that I saw the incredible power of God’s plan through the church. After all, there is one body (Eph 4:4 & 1 Cor 12:12) and we are all united in Christ as his church! I have watched the journey of a Christian neighbor battling cancer with his wife by his side. I have been amazed at their faith and the peace and comfort they have received by leaning on the body of Christ and God himself. They are truly glorifying God through their struggle and they are showing the benefits that come from God’s intention for us to care for one another to all who are following their journey.
While this might be more powerfully displayed in the difficult times we are in, the church working in this way has always been by God’s design…
The first three chapters of Ephesians explain the incredible plan of God, which He established before the foundation of the world. This plan, revealed in a mystery, involved Christ and the church! Before time began, God planned to prove His wisdom through his son, Jesus and the church He would establish.
“and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ephesians 3:9-11
I think most people are aware of how Christ was part of that plan, but did you know that we, the church–Christian people, have a part to play? As a church, we glorify God (Eph 3:21) if we are faithfully pursuing our eternal purpose laid out by Him.
In Galatians 5:13, Paul says “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
When we serve one another, we are glorifying God by accomplishing His purpose for the church.
Listen to these beautiful descriptions of the body of Christ in the Word…
In Romans 12:4-18:
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
And in Colossians 3:12-17
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Many of these Christian imperatives are not able to be accomplished without being immersed in the church (and taking it to the world also). There will be times where you will need someone to mourn with or to pray with. And there will be times when you can contribute to the body and build up someone else. The closeness described above is that of a family who is driven by love for each other. God’s wisdom is proven by the church when his people glorify Him. He has laid out for us how to do that.
I am so thankful for our church family during the last few months, but the reality is, I am still missing the fullness of God’s intention when I am not able to actually assemble with my brothers and sisters in Christ. While we have all made do under the circumstances, the greatest power in the church comes from being together. The full power of the church is displayed in our lives when we are immersed in it. It is first and foremost for the building up of God’s people in Christ.
I have been blessed to have a group of women here who we affectionately call, Prayer Peeps. We meet monthly and discuss our struggles. We are encouraged to bring a Bible verse that applies to our situation. This group has been there for me in some of the hardest moments that I would have likely hidden and dealt with in silence. The process of going to Scripture for my difficulties has showed me a better method for working through them. From marriage difficulties to infertility, these ladies are there for me at a level I have never experienced before. They see the deeper parts of me and the struggles. I cherish these women and their role in my life. I feel the power of their prayers and appreciate their godly advice and perspective. The influence of this incredible group of women was what initially inspired this blog post, long before COVID struck.
A friendship rooted in Christ is such a blessing. These ladies (and some other sisters in Christ further away) encourage me and seek to give Godly counsel and foster a mindset that God’s word should be where I turn with my difficulties. My life has so much more peace and fulfillment by surrounding myself with people who are pursuing God with me, even when the troubles themselves remain. We may have heard the saying (actually a Bible verse – 1 Cor 15:33), Do not be deceived:“Bad company ruins good morals.” While the warning is true, thankfully so is the opposite.
When we surround ourselves with people who have the same goal of Heaven and living out our eternal purpose, we are all better for it.
Even when our world seems to be falling apart, we still have something to offer. Sometimes we are the ones offering support and sometimes we are receiving it, but in every situation God is glorified when we operate according to his eternal purpose for us as a body. One of the beautiful things about being a part of the body of Christ is that you can shift your focus from your own difficulties to considering others. If we feel we can do nothing else, we can “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn”. Healing often comes when we begin to consider others before ourselves, even in the most difficult struggles in our lives. Christ taught us that first, after all.
I pray that people will not only choose to follow Jesus, but embrace being a contributing part of the body of Christ–in and out of a church building. The Hebrew writer says “let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another” (10:25). Contributing doesn’t necessarily mean teaching and volunteering. It can be learning and growing in your faith. Asking hard questions or even easy ones. Romans 12 above asks everyone to embrace their unique strengths and gifts. God finds beautiful ways to utilize your strengths and also develop our weaknesses if we hand them over to Him.
You are also surrounded by fellow Christians who are seeking the same things. When God’s vision for his church is applied, the level of spiritual support and love provides a depth that is often unattainable otherwise. We can help one another grow in the grace and knowledge of God.
Are you part of the body of Christ? You cannot be a part of the body without being reconciled by the blood of Christ. 1 Cor 12:13 and Acts 2:41 say we are baptized into the body. But maybe you have been reconciled to God. Are you truly an active part of the body? Become immersed in the family of God and witness the beautiful power behind God’s eternal plan. May the time come quickly when we can experience the fullness of the glory of Christ’s church at work.