Paul provides a clear image of the make-up and function of the Body of Christ. Each person is a part of the whole body and each person is valuable. Also, each person must be diligent in properly functioning because when this is done, the Body of Christ grows in love.
Being a member of the Body of Christ requires recognizing the “light” in others. An old Hasidic parable, by Henry Nouwen, summarizes the importance: “The rabbi asked his students, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One of the rabbi’s students suggested, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep?” “No,” the rabbi said. “Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student. “No,” the rabbi said. “Please tell us the answer then,” said the students. “It is when you can look into the face of another human being and you have enough light in you to recognize your brother or your sister. Until then it is night, and darkness is still with us.”
In addition to recognizing light in others, Nouwen provides steps in developing into an active Body of Christ: solitude, community, and ministry. Jesus prayed at night, in solitude; in the morning, he formed a community of disciples, and in the afternoon, Jesus ministered to the people, healed the sick, and proclaimed the Good News. Solitude, community, and ministry are essential activities of the Body of Christ, but that does not mean that each member is perfect; however, it does mean that each member actively moves beyond a life of self-interest to a life of commitment, together, as the people of God.
As this pandemic stretches from weeks to months, navigating our lives has become exhausting. And communities are experiencing more political polarization. Some believers may wonder how to effectively function as one body in a time like this. But the answer is in understanding that the Body of Christ is admirably arranged for growth and rigor. Every member contributes to its healthful and harmonious action, and one member lends vigor and beauty to another, so that the whole body is finely proportioned and splendidly sustained, with love.