By Wendy Anne Clark
I was thinking this morning about how my sister when she was in Germany years ago, told of how she was often embarrassed by other Americans. It reminded me of when my husband and I were in Jamaica and were embarrassed by another American couple because of the way they mistreated the wait staff. Like my sister, we felt that as Americans, the things other Americans were doing reflected on us and who we are.
There is something about identifying with a group of people that is risky. Once we identify with them, they represent us, and we represent them, whether any of us intend to or not.
And so it is with the word “Christian.” Throughout history many have identified themselves as “Christians.” Some have done so deceptively for political or personal gain. Hitler is one who falls into this category, calling himself a “Christian” while those closest to him say he was a committed Atheist. He labeled himself a “Christian” to identify himself with other Christians and bring credibility to his philosophies, but not to align himself with the person of Jesus Christ.
Often the word “Christian” is tainted by true believers, followers of Christ who are redeemed but not yet perfected. They stand up and identify with us and with Christ himself and then sadly bring embarrassment to us all by falling in public ways—ways we cannot easily explain or ignore. And yet Christ has chosen to call all Believers his “body.” We are “the Body of Christ.” He has chosen to identify with us as embarrassing as we might be.
The picture that comes to my mind is that of an awkward body, picking its nose and scratching in public, belching rudely, and stumbling around with no coordination. It pushes itself boldly into a room shouting, “Here I am, the Body of Christ,” and we look up, embarrassed and squawk, “Yes, that’s me. I’m a part of that body.” Yikes.
If that’s how we feel sometimes, what does it all seem like to Jesus? That body is such a poor reflection of who he is. It’s puzzling that the God of the universe would allow himself to be represented by such a rag-tag band of followers. More puzzling even that he would label us his “bride” and talk of us as having incredible value.
Yet, in the struggle that is involved in getting it all together–in becoming a coordinated, functioning body–something begins to happen. The body lurches to its feet, hobbling along, desperately struggling to stand up straight and to make that one foot step evenly in front of the other, struggling to get a fluid motion, an efficient stride. The body gradually straightens out, getting stronger and more coordinated and begins to pick up the pace, and suddenly the body is finally really getting somewhere.
That’s what Jesus Christ has in mind for his Body of Believers. He brings us together in a seemingly random, mismatched way, and we struggle together for true connection and coordination. But in order for that coordination to happen, all parts must learn how to surrender to Christ as the Head of the Body—Christ as the brains of the operation.–surrender and surrender completely.
Herein lies the problem. Every time a part of the Body refuses to surrender and tries to strike out on his or her own, to do what can be done in one’s own strength, by one’s own power and abilities, the whole Body feels it and is affected. One single part of the Body can cause a break in the stride and slow everyone else down. Sometimes the result is a powerful fall with a lot of scabs and bruising.
It’s interesting to consider that the Body of Christ is both one large body, made up of every Believer of all time, and yet also a collection of smaller bodies, made up of the Believers in our own local church. We reflect on and are most affected by those we are most connected to. The lack of unity is more bone jarring and muscle tearing within our local church body. We are still affected by those in the Body that we are more distant from—watch a popular pastor fall, and see what happens to all of us in the public square—but the greatest source of injury is with those we identify with the most closely.
It is in our local church body that we feel the urgency to come together, the urgency to surrender to Christ—for the sake of us all. Of course, when we learn to surrender and then submit to one another and to cooperate for the sake of the Gospel—when we learn to do this at the local level, the Body of Christ benefits worldwide and all of the saints throughout history rejoice.
We all need for God to give us the eyes to really see each other as integral parts of the whole. No one is to be discarded. No one is to be a rogue—out on his or her own, doing his or her own thing. We all need to take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn and practice and learn some more what it means to really SURRENDER. To give up our ambitions, our opinions, our rights, our desires—to give them all up for whatever Christ wants, whatever he proposes we do. No matter what.
If we can do that, when we finally do that, we will see Jesus Christ move in a mighty way, and the world will see Jesus Christ for who he really is.
I’d rather be connected to a body of 10 Believers who are sold out completely to the cause of Christ, than to a Body of a hundred Believers , all going this way and that. Anyone want to join me?