Every limb in our body is important, yet we sometimes do not fully recognize how important each one is until we have a health crisis. We don’t notice our teeth unless we have a toothache; or our toes until we stub them. Similarly in church life, it is in challenges and crises that we often discover the importance and value of every member in the body of Christ.
During the pandemic of 2020, I believe we experienced a profound example of CityLife Church coming together in a crisis to serve one another and our community. At all times, but especially at times like this, it is important to make room and take time to show honour and respect to all those who have served our church and our community.The Body as a Picture of the Church
A number of times in scripture, Paul uses the image of a human body to describe the church, the body of Christ and the importance of every member. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12:21-25 and Romans 12:3-5, he highlights the interdependence of the various members of the body and the way we should show honour and care for every member of the body and not just ourselves.1 Corinthians 12:21-25 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.Romans 12:3-5 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.Ancient View of Honour in Community
In using the body to describe the church, Paul’s was borrowing from a commonly used political analogy. The individual’s soul and body was widely used as a political metaphor for a city or political community in ancient times. Ancient writings such as Plato’s Republic compared the parts of the soul and body to the various roles people had in a city state.
However, this ancient political picture of body and soul was also used to justify a highly elitist view of society. The soul (or mind and emotions) represented the rulers and citizens of the city. They were the “aristocracy.” The body represented the vast number of slaves that served the aristocracy. For example, Aristotle described the large body of slaves in the ancient world as “living tools.” He implied that a slave’s only value was how they could be used like arms legs, feet and hands. He believed the elite should rule over slaves like despots just as the mind should rule over the body (Aristotle, Politics Book One).
So for hundreds of year up to the time of Christ this metaphor of body and soul was used to justify and rationalise tyranny and oppression including that of the Roman Empire. It was also used to justify a system of honouring the elite above others. The aristocracy presumed that because of their superior position they deserved praise and honour more than others. Others were there to serve and honour them.Making Room for Honour
Paul’s description of the body of Christ and its different members confronts the elitist views of the powerful in his time. He turns the body analogy and cultural views of power, service and honour upside down. He emphasises the worthiness of every person’s contribution in Christian community. Christ is the head, and we are all part of the servant body. We are all called to serve as slaves to Christ. But that position as a servant is one of honour.
Paul’s teaching powerfully and effectively emphasises that in serving Christ every person can rediscover their God-given place of honour. He shows that God values the hidden, the unseen, and those roles in society that sometimes are despised and looked down on. He gives dignity and value to serving others. His teaching powerfully reflects the example of Jesus (John 13:1-17).
CityLife has core values that are founded on this teaching of honour and service. We value servanthood, we value the diverse contribution made by every person seen and unseen. We believe each person has intrinsic value and worth. We believe each person’s contribution should be honoured. That is why every year we make room during our Team Appreciation Night and weekend to honour people. We make room to honour both the seen and the unseen service of so many.
This year we again honoured the incredible contribution so many have made to serving our church and our communities. Every site and every ministry has contributed something of inestimable value to our church community and the neighbourhoods in which we serve.
• That includes all our Life Groups at Whittlesea, Manningham, Casey, our Chinese Congregations and Knox.
• It includes every age group and age based ministry—kids, youth, young adults, adults and seniors.
• It includes central and building Services, hospitality, prayer, LifeTracks, Community Care, and World Impact.
• It includes ministry to singles, couples, families, Motherhood, and KidzBizz.
• It includes church service teams at all sites and online, creative, media, audio, and the teaching team.
• It includes our service in our community, to our neighbours and within our families.
And for the 30 percent more of CityLife team members who have not been able to serve in your normal ministry roles this year, let me offer this encouragement. Standing by ready and willing to serve, is also an act of service. We honour your willingness to remain available and ready to step in as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
Whatever area of service you have been involved in or standing by for, your contribution has been valuable and important and worthy of honour.Our Response
Honouring others is a biblical principle and practice. We do not seek to serve and honour ourselves, we seek to serve and honour others. Inevitably we ourselves will most likely be blessed in the process. But the question is who are we seeking to honour? Honouring God first and then others puts the emphasis in the right place. So why not take some time as a Life Group towards the end of the year to reflect on the biblical value and practice of honouring others. Share and discuss the many ways we can express honour towards others. Above all, make room to express gratitude and honour to each other for the way you have supported your families, your life group and ministry teams, others in your communities and the wider church during this year.Discussion Questions
- How do you think Paul’s picture of the body of Christ confronts distorted views of worth and value in our own times?
- What can we learn from Jesus’ life and ministry about serving and honouring others?
- In what ways have you found serving difficult this year?
- How did you adapt to the challenges of serving in a Lockdown?
- What unexpected opportunities have you found to serve this year?
- How can we make room to honour others?
- Take time to express honour and gratitude to each other as a Life Group.