All of it.
Truth be told, I’m in love with Stan. A fellow student pointed at one of my drawings and said, “This is the day you fell in love with Stan.” She then smiled and added, “He just wasn’t my type.”
Stan has got me thinking about the body of Christ…the wondrous connection we have, as Christians, living under radical grace.
In writing about the various spiritual gifts, Paul describes it this way, “You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said goodbye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything…Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge….But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of….The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church; every part dependent on every other part….You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are!” (1 Corinthians 12, The Message).
But something gets lost in translation when we compare our real lives to this ideal. We all fall short, terribly short.
Diseases in Our Body
The diseases in our body are more toxic than snake venom and more deadly than cancer. They eat our body from the inside out. The list is endless. Pride. Ambition. Arrogance. Manipulation. Anger. Greed. Disvaluing, discounting and judging people. Using people as a means to an end.
Divisions of Our Body
The divisions of our body are like broken, severed bones. We put people into well-defined boxes and label them carefully with thick marker. Race. Sex. Age. Socio-economic position. Politics. Theology. Job title. Gifting.
We’re all guilty, me included.
I met her in the pottery studio…and it was hard to look away. One of her arms all the way around and to her wrist, and her upper chest, were covered in a beautiful flowered tattoo. The colors were striking. It was a true work of art. (And she was saving money to tattoo her other arm as well, so it was still a work in progress.) My self-righteous, put-everyone-in-a-box self thought that she was certainly a pagan in dire need of salvation. I soon found out that she was a Christian who loved Jesus…who went to church…who went to my church. (God certainly has a sense of humor in calling us out on our stuff.)
After hurting people I love over a period of time, he “closed the deal,” revealing his character and bad-mouthing them directly in my presence. Rather than feel sadness for those who were hurt and rise to their defense, my first reaction was self-righteous vindication. I thought, I’m right about him and I knew it all along. My arrogance rivaled—if not surpassed—his.
Living Under Grace
We are called to be and live as one: “The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us….And give the godless world evidence” (John 17, The Message).
Grace is the only way to pull that off. As my father says all the time, “The only people who get any better are those who know that, if they don’t get any better, God will still love them.”
Living under grace…we have nothing to lose. We have nothing to win. We have nothing to protect. We have nothing to defend. We have nothing to risk.
Living under grace…our relationships are characterized by respect, acceptance, value, freedom and love.
Living under grace…we are one and our very business is love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). My father again (sorry, I just can’t resist): “We can’t love until we’ve been loved and then only to the degree to which we’ve been loved.”
We all live under the “wings” of God. Loved. Valued. Forgiven. Cherished. Accepted.
Equally and together.
Grace binds us. And it is much stronger than Stan’s screws and pins.