Sunday, April 10, 2005

Throwing down the gauntlet on the "Personal Relationship"

Ephesians 4
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,

5one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

8Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’

9(When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?

10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
(emphases mine)

Now take a good hard look at how Paul envisions the Church. When God gives a gift, he does so desiring that the gift will build up the whole body, not for the revelry of the gifted one. We are, as Abraham was, blessed in order to be a blessing to all people.

The Body of Christ, of which there is only one, is the body where the faith is held and is the whole body as it stands. The person is a ligament; you are a part of that body and you serve a function. However, this "I am" frame of mind has got to GO. You are NOT, except in relation to others (thanks Thomas Aquinas). "I am" is a Platonic frame of mine, one that Christ came to lay to rest.

Now of course each individual has an important part. After all, the body will hardly work well with a sick leg - that's a crippled body. But, do we try and cure the leg, or do we simply lop it off because it slows us down? As someone who has broken bones in the past I'm well aware where I stand on this.

In Orthodoxy we say that we have the "fullness of the faith". This is juxtiposed, unfortunately, against other Christian (or non-Christian) groups who may very well have a part of the faith. It's important to demarcate this line since our command in verses 13 and 14 is to come in full maturity to Chrit - to the fullness of life in Christ, and not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine. In others words, don't give into those itching ears who want to "redo" the faith when it become annoying for them. In the end it's the tool of Satan. "Come on... divide the body.... you're a good leg, she's a bad arm, you don't need her.... come on, I've got a better body for you, just sever yourself and you'll see...."

There's nothing here to suggest that what Paul REALLY meant was for the leg or the arm to spend all of its time excercising charismatic gifts or getting a Medal of Honor for remaining holy in the face of an extremely uncooperative body. You cannot reject the Church without rejecting Christ. Now there are, of course, levels of that, but when Christ tells Peter that he is the rock upon which he will build his Church, and hell shall not prevail against it, he's not saying "you're the rock upon which I'll build my churches and hell won't prevail against any of the various denominations." The rock stands, albeit in 2 parts at present, but it stands nonetheless. The forces of hell have not prevailed against God's gate and the faith remains as it was and will always be.

As we can see above, it's precisely when the going gets touch that we're to persevere in love. You aren't supposed to go severing the body when parts are sick. The sick leg will need the healthy arm to mend it, the healthy foot is still desired though the leg may be preventing its proper use. We're not supposed to be like the pagans the gospel was preached to, with every little philosophy having its own school. No, we're all to live as one, to show the rest of the world the unity for which God intended man to live in. Otherwise we're a corpse exposed in the morgue - millions of perfect cells, none cooperating with another and each serving not to form a cohesive whole, but rather to steal energy from the others.


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