Thinking about the Church can be a bit overwhelming. Also called the body of Christ in the New Testament, a term that Paul favoured, it isn’t just our local church (though it includes that), but is the Universal Church spanning time and geography. And, it’s not just metaphorically Jesus’ body, but actually is. This is mind boggling to me, in part because of the fact that I am a part of it.
One image that I find helpful in thinking about the Body of Christ is a childhood hero of mine:
Voltron, you see, is made up of five robotic lions, and each has their own function and role. In fact, each lion is specifically designed for the role they play. The green lion is the left arm, and was designed to be so. In the same way, God has designed and gifted each of us specifically for our role in the Body of Christ. This includes our temperaments, quirks, talents, and unique personalities (though marred by sin). Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:18 that God has placed each member into the body just as He desired.
- We have God-given gifts meant to encourage, strengthen, and help each other. Your temperament, personality, and quirks – though marred by sin, are uniquely yours because of God’s design.
Each lion is necessary to Voltron; the red lion can’t say to the yellow lion “I don’t need you,” otherwise Voltron wouldn’t be able to stand (or fly). You and I need each other member of the Body of Christ too. This includes the people in our local church. All of them. It includes the poor, the mentally & physically disabled, those from other countries with different language and culture and skin colour. And it includes those who are just plain annoying. We can’t say to them “I don’t need you,” though in actuality we believe (or at least act like we believe) that we don’t. The challenge for us is to begin (if we’re already not) valuing all the members of Christ’s body as essential and necessary. Not just abstractly, but particularly – the person next to you in the pew, or at the back of the sanctuary. The Christian down the street, or on the wrong side of the tracks.
It also means that one denomination can’t say it to another either. The baptists can’t say to the Pentecostals “I don’t need you,” for example, or the Emergents to the Neo-Reformed. We individuals each have a specific role to play in Christ’s body, and so does each denomination. They need each other despite (or because of) their doctrinal emphasis and differences; otherwise His body isn’t whole.
The Voltron illustration goes deeper too. Each lion is piloted by a human riding inside it. Without the human inside it, it’s just a dead robot lion, and a lame robotic limb. The humans power and operate the robot. They are like the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and the Church (1 Cor. 6:19). Without the Holy Spirit we are dead and lifeless, and useless to Jesus’ body.
- The Holy Spirit is like the blood that gives us constant and continual life. As we maintain our connection with Christ we ‘keep the blood flowing’.
Finally, Voltron’s purpose was to defend Earth from enemy invaders. It didn’t just sit around in a museum for people to look at; it made a difference. In the same way, as members of Christ’s body, we need to act too. Our purpose is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” And like the early church, we should be providing materially for the other parts of the body that are in need – both locally and globally.
While the Universal Church (and even the local church) is so much more than a giant space robot piloted by humans, it’s helpful to keep in conscious thought when you meet another Christ-follower, whether you know them well or just met them: “I need you, fellow member of Jesus’ body.”