2014 Lent 26

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I Corinthians 12:12-26

Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve said more than once that here–at some point or another in my contemplation of I Corinthians–I must disagree with the apostle.  Reason, experience, and tradition have had to overrule one or another of Paul’s points, or some method he tries to persuade me to follow.

Well, today I’ve come to a new turn in the road.  For today he simply makes me laugh.

He’s talking about how an assembly of Christ-believers makes up one body; though concurrently, according to the unique liberties and gifts given to each person, each assembly is made up of many members.  The NIV, by the way, uses the word parts instead of members (a good distinction to keep in mind): one body, many parts.

So then, this is a good picture to bring up, especially in light of the liberty (of the many parts) and divisions (of the one body) he has been discussing up to now.  But Paul then exploits this metaphor, likening a person in a congregation to a member, or part, of a human body.

A foot and a hand, for instance, have different functions.  The hand needs to do its thing, and the foot its.  That doesn’t make either of these any less a part of the overall body.  The same thing could be said of the eye and ear.  Looking at this a little differently, for a body to be all eyes (like Argos from Greek mythology?) would make for someone who sees really well but is not much good at anything else.

So should it be in the Christian assembly.  Not all have been called to be the eyes of the organization.  Some have been called to be the feet, others hands, without which, in fact, the organization would be seriously hindered.

And I want to say, “Okay, Paul, thanks, you can stop right there.  I get it.”

But he doesn’t stop right there.

He goes on, indeed to the point of embarrassment, to mention “less honorable” and “inferior” members–or, parts.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “Surely he can’t mean private parts here, can he?”  Which is exactly what I thought at first.  But he does.  And, the more I think about it, that’s what strikes me as so funny.

For it’s fine and well enough to call me the hand or foot of an organization, or the eye, ear, mouth, or even the nose.  But who wants to be known as the organization’s belly button?  Or worse, as the organization’s– well, you get the picture, yeah?

But even to be an organization’s private part, apparently for Paul, is respectable enough.  For we give greater attention to our “less honorable,” “inferior” parts–making sure to cover them from exposure, I presume, which is something we don’t have to do when with our hands and feet, eyes and ears, and so on; but most definitely must do in public when it comes to our, eh hem, privates.

Anyway, this greater amount of attention shown to the private parts is supposed to yield this result: “that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (v. 25-26).

And I don’t know about you, but my middle school boy’s mind has now taken over.  The metaphor broke down for me some time ago.  I’m no longer thinking about a congregation and the various roles its parishioners play, but about jokes I used to make with Chris, Dave, John, and Rich as we dressed out for P. E. in the Los Altos Junior High School locker room.  And I’m holding my aching sides.

At any rate, all things considered, my ongoing conversation with Paul has now included discussion and debate–agreement about some matters, disagreement about others–and, today, flat out laughter.  A fly on the wall would think we’ve become pretty good friends.

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