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Introduction (Part 3 of 7): Let no one separate.

In the last article, we (my buddy the Apostle Paul and I) wrote about how some people are discontent with the roles and gifts that they have been given. They desire something more interesting or visible. There is a word for that kind of behavior. It is pride. One is basically saying “I want to do more” or “I’m too good for this role or these tasks.” Now, as we continue with this passage in 1 Corinthians 12:21-26, Paul asks us to consider another form of pride on our teams.

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. (1 Corinthians 12:21-24)

This is the pride of “I don’t need you!” “I can do this on my own.” “What you do and who you are not important.” Paul calls some of these parts of the body as “weaker” and “less honorable” and “unpresentable.” (Oh Paul, stop. You are making me blush.) Consider the gallbladder. That’s not a sentence you’ll read often in a leadership blog. This is where the body stores bile for use in digestion. Yum. Even its name is a little disturbing. Gall means something that is irritating or bitter. Bladder means a pouch or storage area. Literally, the gallbladder is a big old bag of bitterness. Sign me up for that role in the body. Yet, even though you can live without this bag of goo, other parts have to compensate and the body is not operating as designed. The brain or the heart would not be able to fill the role that the gallbladder does even if they wanted to. Let me ask you a question. How many times have you fully recognized what someone brings to the team when they leave or are suddenly unavailable? Truthfully, the answer for me is far too often. The truth is, the body can better survive and thrive without some “high profile” parts such as an eye or a finger.

Years ago, when I was still at P&G, one of my least favorite team members was our legal representative. I want to be clear, this was not because of her personality or character or intellect. She was a perfectly bright and pleasant person. But I always felt like her entire purpose was to tell us “no”. “No, you can’t say that in that advertisement.” “No, you can’t put that claim on a package.” “No, you can’t ship any product unless it has this warning.” “Just no!” I always felt like she was just slowing our team down. It wasn’t until she saved us from a potentially HUGE loss that I realized why she always planted herself in front of our speeding train. It was her role and she was very good at it. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Here’s the key; iron can’t sharpen iron unless there is friction. Sidebar (Get it? We were talking about lawyers. I crack myself up sometimes): we, as leaders, have to get used to hearing the word “no” from time-to-time even from God. If we’re not hearing no, we’re likely not pushing hard enough.

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. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

This is critically important and cannot be overemphasized. God has put the body together. Does this sound vaguely familiar? It is often quoted at weddings because they are the words Jesus used to describe marriage. When the Pharisees were asking Jesus about divorce, he first quotes Genesis 2, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Then Jesus strengthens the statement with “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” This is why God hates divorce because it is destroying something he made himself. How much stronger would God view someone who is destroying the Bride of Christ, the church, which he also designed and made himself. We are one. No division. I often believe that the majority of my energy on a day-to-day basis is actively fighting against division creeping into any part of our church but especially our staff. It is a constant battle. There is a reason why marriage is used as a metaphor for the church in scripture so much.

These are two of my very favorite humans, my son Tommy and my daughter-in-law Tristine, on their wedding day just over a year ago on New Year’s Day 2021. Don’t they look happy? They are. And just like every other married person in the history of the planet, especially during the first year of marriage, it is a constant battle to remember that they are one and fighting divisions in a marriage is part of the covenant. I reminded them, just like anyone I marry, that our goal is not a happy marriage, it is a healthy marriage.

Reminder, Paul is writing this letter to the church of Corinth where there were four significant issues impacting that community:

  1. The community was divided by arguments and partisanship. Paul makes it clear that this is the primary reason for his letter. Right after his opening greeting, in verse 10 of the first chapter, Paul says “I appeal to you brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Then he addresses quarrels about which teachers people were following and the community allowing that to be a barrier to unity.

  2. Paganism was infiltrating their belief systems. Verse 14 of chapter 10 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” Some amongst them were allowing some other local cultural beliefs to bleed into their faith. Some were judging people based on their beliefs and actions. People were starting to do whatever they felt was right and judging others based on their agreement or disagreement with them.

  3. Sexual immorality was rampant as cultural influences were impacting those within the church. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own bodies.” Incest, adultery, pedophilia, etc. was seeping into the community of believers.

  4. The community struggled with spiritual immaturity. First Corinthians 13:1 opens with “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly–mere infants in Christ.” People were adapting their spirituality to their own cultural beliefs rather than vice versa.

Any of these four sound vaguely familiar? Paul could have been addressing 2022 worldviews. And Paul starts moving towards the solution in verses 24-26 which we read above. Unity. Concern for each other. Empathy. Honor. Celebrating others. Love. Unfortunately, the American church is not known for these characteristics. We are increasingly known to be exclusive, judgmental, and bigoted. Remember, in Paul’s corrections here, he is speaking to those inside the church and supposedly believers. Jesus reserved his harshest challenges to the religious elite. To those outside of the believing church, Paul and Jesus both led with comfort, healing, care, and relationship. As Christian believers, we will always win if we lead with love. That doesn’t mean that there is not a place for correction or challenge but it is definitely once relationships based on love and trust have been established.

We’ll spend the rest of this week exploring the rest of 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 learning just how this impacts us and our teams if we act according to the way we were designed.

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Joe Jones
Joe Jones

"To those outside of the believing church, Paul and Jesus both led with comfort, healing, care, and relationship. As Christian believers, we will always win if we lead with love."

Too often I find myself with a lack of patience toward my non-believing friends or those who are believers but lead lives more reflective of societal expectations rather than a reflection of Christ. Thanks for the reminder that comfort, healing, care, and relationship with love above all else is what's needed.

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