search for significance
We like our quizzes. Scroll through a few images, choose our favorite Muppet or vacation destination, and the online world can determine our personalities, talents, and place in the world, figuratively and physically. With a couple of clicks, we discover the ideal job for our personality type and the color of our parachutes. We want to know how we flourish and find meaning and fulfillment, and these things promise to lead us to our optimal, HGTV lives.
It might sound promising, but it becomes the stuff of comparison and the seedbed of discontentment and defeat. What if we’re not significant? What if we don’t live out our full potential?
Into this mess, God speaks about who we really are.
our place in this world
We can rest in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. His life belongs to us, and we belong to him. We become a new body, his body, the church.
We may leave our local churches, we may feel hurt by people in our churches, we may turn our backs on these institutions that at times seem too political or not political enough, too intrusive or too passive, too formal or too charismatic. But as Christians, we can no more walk away from the body of Christ than our feet can leave us. Christians belong to each other. Just like God transforms us individually, he transforms his community as we use our spiritual gifts.
Humbly, we participate in this body, thinking of ourselves rightly—part of this body because of God’s grace and useful members because of his gifting. God gave us something to offer this body, and he uses our gifting not to build ourselves up or find meaning in life but to build up the body for God’s kingdom work. To deny the body the use of your gift is as selfish as considering yourself more necessary to the body because of your gift.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul spins out this body metaphor and uses the body imagery to turn Roman thought on its head. The Romans stratified their social system and expected the “lesser” to serve the “greater” (senators and equestrians, Roman leaders) for the sake of the common good. They even used the body imagery to support this. Paul, though, in an unexpected twist, affirms that all body parts are necessary and that what may seem to us to be “weaker” is, in fact, indispensable. And, because of this, the “greater” ones should be serving the “weaker.” All of this is not to create a competing hierarchy but to draw us all together in a diverse unity.
While the Romans used body imagery to call citizens to a natural unity, Paul talks about the supernatural unity that can only happen by and through our supernatural Trinitarian God, a mysterious three-in-one being. This unity actually depends on diversity. The body cannot function properly without its different members. It requires variety, which is why the Spirit gives different gifts to different people. No one person has all the gifts. Together, we make up one whole body. Separate, we flounder, a finger flopping on the ground, useless.