November is on us, the clocks have changed and we have altered the time of our evening service. We could be entering the “winter of our discontent” or we could be maximising the time and opportunities that God gives us. We have celebrated our Church Anniversary and we had an “Away Day” for Church Officers. Each event caused us to reflect on the ongoing work of the Church. Recently reading Romans 12 also made me ponder afresh the responsibilities incumbent upon us all as Church Members. Paul writes..
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12 v.5)
We are probably all familiar with the picture of the church being a body and how each part relates to another, but do we really consider the implications of that picture? Some evenings we will end the day watching 24 Hours in A & E. In a recent episode a dislocated finger tip could not be replaced because apparently there are not sufficient ligaments or tendons to hold it there. In another episode a young man damaged a couple of nerves in his back, and as a result could not walk. On the surface neither of these injuries was very visible and could be seen as insignificant, but left untreated they were life-changing injuries. The dislocated finger was rectified under surgery, while sadly the damaged spine could not be repaired so a complete new approach to life was necessary. He was not going to give up, but learnt to use his body in a totally different way in order to address the tragic effects of the injury.
Paul makes the same point in verse 5. As a church we need each other for support and each member, no matter how seemingly insignificant has a vital role. Notice the gifts listed and how some are used as part of the church gathered for worship and teaching – prophecy, teaching, exhortation and leadership. Others however are used for the benefit of the church outside of worship – service, generosity, doing acts of mercy. Even the gifts used in worship can equally be used in settings outside the gathered church. As Christians we can teach and exhort each other in informal settings, where we share the great truths that we learn in our formal gatherings. Leadership is not simply the work of elders, but anyone who has responsibility for others must show initiative and give an example that can be followed. That applies to parents, but also to older people or those with more experience.
He closes this section with a word used to describe our attitude to life, ‘cheerfulness’, but attitudes and characteristics become more prominent as he develops his argument in verses 9-13. As Christians our lives are to be genuine or without hypocrisy. He encourages exuberance, “outdo one another in showing honour” (v.10), avoiding any semblance of laziness or impatience.
His guidance in verse 13 is important, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”, because no matter who you are as a member of the body of Christ you can fulfil these exhortations. The first part of the verse might be translated as “Commune or share with the saints in need.” The ESV implies that we give money and that is an important service that probably all of us can do to some extent. The call to show hospitality might frighten many, and like me you would want to say “I can’t cook a two or three course meal”, but all of us can make a cup of tea and simply show people that we have time for them.
Returning to the illustration from 24 Hours in A & E, you might only feel like a finger tip in the body of Christ, but each part of our body has a function and we work best and most effectively when we each fulfil the privilege that God has given us in serving one another and in so doing serving Him. Serving within the church is the privilege of all members. Prayerfully consider how your life might best be used to care for others within the Body of Christ.