Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Body of Christ

If my head is damaged, I may not be able to use my body as I once could. I may not be able to use language, or move my arm, as I used to. As it is, if I pick something up, it is the hand that does it, but it is me in that hand--without my willing it to move, it would not move. If I break my arm, it is not something wrong with me, per se, but with my arm. If I become paralyzed, it is not something wrong with my mind, usually, but with the connection between my head and my body. What happens to my head affects all of my body, and what happens to my body affects what my head does with my body.

We are the body of Christ, for we are all united to him, just as all the parts of the body are to the head. All that we do in him is his action, and all he has done is something that we, in a sense, share in--a soccer player kicks a ball into the air, and raises their arms in their happiness. The same power which raised Christ from the dead is the power which works in us. He who willed that the Church resist temptation in previous times is also he who wills every act the Church now does. The pain that the Church endures for Christ, it also endures by the power of the Spirit, and therefore in Christ. The Christ was crucified bodily on the cross in the first century, but, ever since then, his body, the Church, has been being in a sense crucified by the world. "Take up your cross..." The Christ who submitted his body to suffering to the end for our sakes now submits us to a kind of picture of that suffering, and endures it, which is to say that we endure it in him, for the joy set before him who is our joy, for the sake of those who are yet lost, that we might show how great the love of God is, and draw some to Christ. Thus Paul says, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church," Colossians 1:24.

If the martyrs in ages past, and places far away, can endure suffering by the power of the Spirit, then what will stop us? It is that same power in us, to will and to work to his good pleasure--it is, indeed, a great cloud of witnesses. Yet, as when my foot hurts I sometimes hold it in my hands, and feel the sensation of pain in my mind, so the various members of the Church ought to feel the pain of their fellows. Just as Christ intercedes on our behalf, so should we on behalf of our fellows.

By his stripes, we are healed, and, by our stripes, the Church often strangely grows. May the Church, even here, be deemed worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, that we might both see and show the glory of God in it.

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