Third Sunday After Epiphany: The Epistle Passage – A whole new take on the “body”

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

The writer of I Corinthians intended this to be a teaching on the accepting of different types of gifts in the church. I imagine that church in Corinth had people who felt some gifts and skills were more important and worthy than other ones. It is in verse 27 that he starts to center in on this theme. But it occurred to me as I read verses 14 to 26 that if we would set aside this focus and theme, these verses can have a very different and strong lesson and message. There is great pathos in thinking that parts of a body would feel unneeded and rejected. We need diversity in humanity; if everyone were the same, it would be a sad (to say the very least) world indeed. Read verses 14 to 26, beloved reader and listen to that message; I will insert my thoughts and reflections to help illustrate this point. (And hold on, because quite honestly, I don’t know where this may take us.)

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” (Verses 14 to 17)

There has been, and I am sure there will continue to be, a good deal said about racism, prejudice, and basis. For a time while I was growing up, the barriers of skin color seemed to be coming down and divisions amongst people were being worked out and disappearing. But lately, that is in the past years, that does not seem to be the case. If anything, it is getting worse . . . again. As it was in the 50’s and 60’s. We seem to forget . . .

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (Verses 18 to 21)

You may not understand or agree with my new analysis of this passage. But is that not what society is doing when one group of people dismisses or goes so far as destroying another group, even if it is done individual by individual? There is not greater hate than hate that leads to killing someone. And is that not saying the ultimate “I don’t need you or want you!”

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, [now let me insert a clarification here; the writer of I Corinthians means “members” that are less desirable or not publicly shown because they are not consider fit for public display] and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor [i.e. are hidden away] , and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect [i.e. are are not talked about]; whereas our more respectable members do not need this.” (Verses 21 to 24a]

Okay, I admit my new way of looking at this passage is weaker here. What the writer of I Corinthians is saying is that the part of the body whose function is not part of “polite” conversation are kept hidden away and treated in different way. Digestion, sexual functioning, and the like are not topics of public conversation. They are personal and private matters. In the same way that mistreat of certain people was not talked about and no one would correct racist talk or actions. But that was part of the problem! Let’s continue.

But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 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. (Verses 24b to 26)

I feel on firmer ground now. Part of the corrective for racism is talking about how our (that is, Caucasian) attitudes and advantages blind us to the reality of what is happening (and has happened) to our brothers and sisters whose skin color has made them targets. And that makes people (again, Caucasians) feel uncomfortable. Either because their prejudices are exposed; or because they are trying to be open, fair and equal. One of the things that truly bothers me is the notion that a person of light “white” skin color is by that very skin color “guilty” of prejudice, bias and racism. And that is something I have been waiting and wanting to say for many years.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (Verses 27 to 31a)

I can not change my skin color anymore than anyone whose skin color is different than mine can. But I am not any better or any worse than anyone else whose skin color is not the same as mine. And there is only one thing more that I hate than it being assumed that because I am of Caucasian coloring I am racist. And that is because of my skin color I should be afforded more preferential treatment than anyone else. And those whose color is different than mine should and would be treated less “honorably” than I am.

People are people. Each person is in and of themselves a special gift to the world. Our task as people of faith is to discover the special gift that each person is, to insure that they have access to what they need to nurture that gift, and to journey with them as they grow into what God desires them to be. And that I believe, beloved reader, is one of God’s excellent ways! Selah!

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About Carole Boshart

I have two blogs on WordPress. "A Simple Desire" which is based on the daily "Sips of Scripture" published and sent out by Third Way Cafe. "Pondering From the Pacific" is based on my reflections on the world - sometimes religious/spiritual, and sometimes not so much.

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