One Body in Christ — How Diversity Empowers Unity

Author: Alan Hau

Speaker: Pastor Joe

Passage: 1 Corinthians 12


When Jesus left the important job of leading the people to the apostles, it wasn’t an easy task. Influences of worldly desires for power and recognition never left the human psyche. Churches competed with each other, each trying to be the “best” church in their community. It undermines the teachings of Jesus when they have the priorities in the wrong place. Paul the Apostle wrote a letter to address this problem to the Churches at Corinth and attempted to reform the church as a corporate body.

Not Blind Submission but Cooperative Compliance

We are one body in Christ as we all become followers of Jesus. There is a sense of trust between different parts of the body or between members of the church. This is not a blind trust as in the military form of submission. Paul’s analogy of church as a human body describes the imbalance of the body if the parts didn’t cooperate (1 Corinthians 12:12-15). Compliance is a better description of the relationship between church members as this is a bidirectional relationship. Cooperation is inferred precisely because each member understands that the survival of the church relies on all the functioning body parts. This is especially true considering the historical context of the early Christians when they were under persecution by the Roman empire. The very survival of the entire Jesus movement is at stake if the churches fail to unite.

Respect the Diversity in Unity

Between different members of a church, it is easy to make quick judgments and form a hierarchical structure. It is indeed true that some people within the Church are more visible, but they should never be confused as being more important. “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:22).

Individual differences are exactly what helps to keep a church together. Without this diversity, we lose certain dimensions of sense and understanding. Our power to be compassionate comes from our rich experiences of being close to people who are different from us. To seek unity by bending others’ will to be a clone of your’s makes us blind to their true needs.

Respecting our Gifts and Talents

God gave us talents of all kinds in all areas, but not distributed evenly among people. (1 Corinthians: 12:28) Respecting our differences and recognizing that we excel at means we need to collaborate and help each other using what we are best at in order to function effectively.

Love and Justice

Underlying the entire framework Paul has set forth for the Corinthian Churches, he neatly bundles them as a branch of the principles that Jesus taught. If we forget to hold the most excellent “way”– the greatest gift Jesus has left for all of us to follow (1 Corinthians 12:31) then Paul’s suggestions on how to run the church has no meaning.

The transformative love and the sense of justice, the key components within Jesus’ way is His vision of redeeming this world. If the governance of a church cannot place these values in the highest regard ahead of their rituals and traditions, then the “way” is lost. Paul’s message to the early churches isn’t only a guide for churches but when viewed within a wider socio-economic context, some of these qualities are exactly what a just government embodies.