When I was in seventh grade, I transferred schools. Actually, I transferred back to the place I went to before my mom homeschooled me. Mrs. Mahony led me to my first class of the day, and I looked into a room of familiar faces. Although…they didn’t seem so familiar to me. I started to panic and began to cry. Mrs. Mahony soothed me in the hallway, trying to help me see that there was nothing to be afraid of. I was among old friends. One by one she pointed out the faces of those I knew from before, calling them by name. I remembered them, but they looked so different. They had different friends. They had different roles they played in the group: athlete, cheerleader, color guard member. Me, well, I did not know my place. It was scary. As believers in Christ, sometimes joining a body of believers at church and finding our specific roles can be intimidating, just like my first day back at school. In the beginning of Romans 12, Paul is speaking to a group of believers about their place in the body of Christ.
Paul jumps right into his teaching by emphasizing the fact that we are all a part of one body (verses 4-5). The group he is speaking to must have suffered with pride because he immediately addresses that we are to remain humble and remember that not one of us is greater than another. This warning can be taken twofold. First, we cannot think of ourselves as greater than anyone else. Second, there is not anyone greater than another. What makes us great is not our individual selves. What is great is what we are a part of – the body of Christ.
One of the things I love to do is sing in the choir at my church. Just like every choir, we are split up into groups and all taught different parts to sing for each song. We each have specific ranges that we can sing, and many cannot sing outside of that range. If you were to take a song and strip it down to one single part, you would find that it doesn’t sound right without the other parts. A beautiful piece that is made up of differing and complimentary parts is suddenly monotone, and it doesn’t have the same effect. Our roles in the church are very much the same. We each sing our own parts, but when placed together, we make a beautiful song. If separated we do not have the same effect. Each of us is vital, and what makes us beautiful is our harmony together as the body of Christ.
Another great truth Paul points out in verse 6 is while we are a body, we are also individual parts that have their own function. In the community of believers, we each have a vital role. Some of us are evangelists and have great abilities to share the gospel with others. Some are compassionate and are like a balm for those who are wounded. Some are great teachers and have a gift in helping others understand the Word of God. Knowing this can be such a comfort.
Flashing back to seventh grade, what scared me was that I seemed to be surrounded by strangers and did not know where I would fit in. I did not seem to understand my role, and oftentimes I thought the answer was to be like someone else. Fitting in doesn’t mean you are supposed to become the mirror image of another believer. You have a special gift from God that allows you to play a vital role in serving Him. Without your role, the body could not function as a whole. 1 Corinthians 12:21 says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’.” What Paul is teaching us is that each part of the body is reliant on another. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” because even though the eye might see a juicy orange, it cannot pick it up and is reliant on the hand. The head cannot say to the feet that it does not need them because even though it may see the waves of the ocean, it cannot walk over and step in without the help of the feet. The pastor of a church cannot say to the deacons, “I do not need you,” because he relies on them to be there to minister to the needs of the members of the church.
In the last few verses of this portion in his letter, Paul takes the time to explain how believers are to use their gifts (verses 6-8). While his instructions seem obvious, I think his point is that we are to actually use our gifts and in doing so serve the Lord. We cannot sit idly and let others do kingdom work without us. We are to stand up and take our place in God’s work. He has specifically equipped us to do so! We cannot compare our roles to those of other believers and make ourselves feel unimportant because their work seems to dwarf ours in comparison. Every part of the body is important, and the mission of the body is to serve God. We need to put ourselves aside, commit to the body we are a part of, and serve God in our own special roles.
This week, I want you to stop and pray that God will show you what your spiritual gifts are. If taking a spiritual gifts test will help, then by all means go ahead! The reason I want you to do this is because you are specially equipped to do great works for God, and I want you to become aware of what those special gifts are. My hope for you is that you will embrace that you are a part of a greater body of believers, that you will learn what individual part you are, and that you will see how you can serve God in a great way as that part – in a way that no other part of the body could.
God, thank You that when we became Your children, You embraced us and placed us in a community – a body of other believers like us. And thank You that we are all special parts of that body and are equipped with special gifts that allow us to do work for You that no other part could. Please help us as we embrace our community, embrace our special roles, and actively serve You. Thank You for the Holy Spirit who does the equipping and enables us to be used by You.
1 Corinthians 12
1 Peter 4:10-11