“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:4-5
Dr. Robert Judd, a brilliant AU professor at Covenant, is working for a cure for type 2 diabetes. He talks about engorged fat cells and the way they treat the rest of the body. To everyone’s surprise, healthy fat cells don’t just lie dormant, storing fat. They produce proteins that benefit the rest of the body. But when fat cells become engorged (obese?) they begin releasing proteins that lead to type 2 diabetes. When members of our bodies no longer serve the body it is not just a travesty but it is often deadly.
Our bodies are a community of specialized cells that belong to and serve one another.You and I need a community to belong to and to serve. Post-modern generations indicate a higher degree of longing for community than earlier generations. But our culture in general is fragmented, independent, and experiencing more loneliness than ever.
There are three reasons for these intensified longings for lost community:
- Most people have little identity outside of themselves. And for that reason, many of us search for our true self. We try to find or make the true “self” in everything we do.
- Our culture is characterized by weak relational boundaries. We form and keep relationships “for as long as it ‘works’”, even marriage. I call these “Play House” relationships: easy to enter; easy to leave. We are like c hildren who play house, but leave as soon as someone else calls.
- We long for relationship in a community, but we are too busy to build it. And yet, if we slow down we get left behind, because relationships often form by attraction. The implicit question is: “How long can you keep me entertained?” It’s as if we have relationship A.D.D. No relationship holds our attention very long.
Christians have been compressed into this pattern, too. We tend to live as Christian satellites in constant orbits, whirring by one another, clustering once or twice a week. Our community in Christ is not our home. Our true home is on the circuit.
All this doesn’t mean we don’t work for community and experiment with the idea. For instance, Asian communities try to build community by enforcing uniformity. While Western communities build communities by promoting individuality and diversity. Neither end of the spectrum satisfies, and we are cynical.
The only Hope of Authentic Community is found in Jesus Christ. In Him we find both true identity and true belonging. A cell belongs in the body but how does it know? A complex series of proteins called DNA tells all the cells where they belong with a single code of identity. Early research in the transplant of organs failed because the new organs had a different identity (DNA) than the original. And the recipient’s body rejected the unrecognized member.
Followers of Christ have the transplanted spiritual DNA of Christ. We are born of the Spirit (John 3:3). We are born of God (John 1:12-13) and God has put His seal on us – “sealed in (Christ) by the Holy Spirit of promise.” (Ephesians 1:13) Christ is our true identity.
Followers of Christ find their true belonging in Christ, too. We belong in Christ’s body. We have a place. Paul writes, “we all were baptized into the same body by one Spirit.” When we were born again, we were instantly and eternally bound to every other follower of Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 1: “He (Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Christ is the cohesive power of Christian community.
Lou Giglio was once urged by a micro-biologist: “You’ve got to tell them (his audience) about laminin! It’s the cell cohesion protein. It ties everything in the body together, like the rebar in cement.” Later when Lou googled “laminin” he was amazed. Before him was the molecular diagram of this protein in the shape of a cross. Later he saw a photograph taken through an electron microscope. Laminin, the protein that holds our body’s cells together, is cross-shaped! Who would have ever imagined that Paul’s analogy would go so deep? Certainly not Paul. It took 20th century micro-biology to show it to us.
So Paul writes to the Ephesian church:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who…broke down the barrier…so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man…and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity…”
Every time a part of my body is removed, I bleed. But Jesus bled, so that every part of His body might remain, held together by the blood of His cross.
In light of these things ask yourself one question: “Does Christ rule my relationship with the church?”
Cultures, communities and individuals are fragmenting. Christ has made us His body so that, in the culture of the gospel, formed and held together by the cross, others find their true home.