How important are relationships within the Body of Christ?
This question is prompted by the state of affairs in what we broadly refer to as “the world.” The world is a generic term for planet earth and all life on it, including human civilization. We use it generally to address our environment.
Currently, much press is devoted to the subject of the rise of nationalism. Remember how globalization once held out the carrot of the world coming together in one big homogenization of nations and states? It was more often spoken of in terms of a global economy. We now know that globalization failed. Instead, we see the emergence of what is being called “Identity Politics” and the “New Tribalism.” This is a form of polarization which has as its underpinning an emphasis on self. This should not surprise us as we know the god of this world is a self-promoter. The rise of nationalism is seeing self-interest being expressed in terms of recognition. It is the demand to be recognized and respected for what we are. We all realize that what we are now covers every conceivable human behavior.
This should raise our level of concern for Church relationships. Since we live in the world, we are not immune from worldly influences. If members were to allow self-interest to motivate a need for recognition as we are, it would seriously damage our growing into “…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
The Apostle Paul said we should not be children, tossed to and fro by the winds of the worlds trends because it works against the unity of the body. As the world fragments into ever smaller identity groups focused on self, the Church should be growing in its solidarity by every part doing its share to cause growth in the body (see Ephesians 4:16).
Clearly our relationships within the body are an important factor in achieving this. A personal relationship with God cannot be separated from our personal relationship with each other. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love … Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).
Loving one another is not based on personality or just liking people with whom we are comfortable. We love because we are “born of God” – i.e., we have God’s spirit, and we are able to express God’s love by that means and not just by our own preferences.
From God’s point of view, all members are of value to the body. “No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23). We must remember that God composed the body, and He gives greater honor to those who lack it (see verse 24). The Greek here leads us to understand that in composing the body, God has drawn together a large range of spiritual strengths and weaknesses with the expectation that there would be concern and care for each other. This is quite the opposite of self-interest.
In a world of fragmenting social conditions, we are charged to prevent those “worldly” conditions from affecting the church. “that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Corinthians 12:25).
Let’s all give serious consideration to “… this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Not just in word, but in deed.