The Bible uses a variety of different images to describe God’s people. It describes us as a body (1 Cor. 12:12-13), a building (1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:19-22), a family (Gal. 4:4-6), and a bride (Eph. 5:22-24; Rev. 19:6-10). All of these images are used to make particular, special, and important points about the nature of God’s people. One point in particular, though, seems to stand out in all of the images: they all highlight a particular thing that is necessarily made up of many individual parts – all of which are necessary if the thing itself is going to be “complete”. The point then? God intends His people to live and function together in faithful fellowship and intimate community, and in so far as they neglect this fellowship and community, they will suffer and God’s people will be incomplete.
Consider two of these images that make this clear. A human body is a complex and marvelous thing. It is obviously a single unit, but it also is clearly made up of more parts than we can see or imagine. And each of those parts is necessary and has a particular function in the body. Each part must play its “part” – or the whole body suffers. This is Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12. The Church is the body of Christ, and every Christian is an individual member of that body (v. 27). God has arranged it this way so that all the parts will care for each other (v. 25). If one part suffers, we all hurt, and if one part is glad, we all rejoice (v. 26). One part of the body does not need to lament that it is not another part of the body (v. 15-20). God did not make you to function just like someone else. He made you to function according to your gifts and talents and abilities. And here is the crucial point: the body needs YOUR gifts, talents, and abilities. At the end of the day, the Church does not need you to (badly) imitate another part of the body – the Church needs you to perform your function. But what if you choose not to participate in the life of the Church? What if you neglect attendance and fellowship and community? In essence, you are saying that you do not need the body. And you are also depriving the body of your contribution. Paul says we cannot say we have no need of each other (v. 21). If we refuse to participate in the life of the body and isolate ourselves, we are really thinking too highly of ourselves (Rom. 12:3) by declaring (in action even if not with words) that we do not need “those people”. That is a deception, and we believe it at our own risk.
Consider, also, the image of the building. When a building is completed, it is obviously a single entity. And yet – just like the body – it is made up of various parts. Ultimately, each of those parts is necessary for the integrity and safety of that structure. If a brick is simply omitted or a wall begins to crack, the structure may seem fine for a time, but eventually, the whole thing will be compromised. Similarly, we are part of a structure which has Christ as its cornerstone and is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). We are a necessary part of the structure of God’s people. If we are absent or unhealthy or weak, then the whole structure will be affected. Our relationship with God affects those around us – particularly our brothers and sisters in the Church. We may think they have no need of us and we have no need of them, but that is completely untrue. We stand – and fall (though, by God’s grace, not in an ultimate sense because He upholds His people) – together.
Brothers and sisters, we must not forget this truth: God never intended you to isolate yourself from other Christians. No matter what you think, you cannot handle it, and you will be worse off when you do so. No matter how mature we are (or think we are), all of us are called to watch out for an evil, unbelieving heart (Heb. 3:12). The truth is that sin is deceitful, and it is seeking to deceive you. How do you fight against it then? Obviously, you read the Word and pray for God’s mercy and help. But you also “exhort one another every day” (Heb. 3:13). You need to be speaking truth to other Christians. And you need to have other Christians speaking the truth to you. If you neglect this, you are in danger. We are supposed to consider how to stir each other (notice: not just ourselves) up to love and good works. Instead of neglecting each other, we are supposed to encourage each other (Heb. 10:24-25). As we journey toward the ultimate “rest” in glory, we are supposed to be concerned not just with our own selves making it but with our brothers and sisters making it (Heb. 4:1). We are not on individual pilgrimages. We are all running the race together.
So, here is the question: What does your relationship with your fellow Christians look like? Are you neglecting to meet together? Are you saying (by action even if not by word) that you have no need of the other parts of Christ’s body? Are you saying (by action even if not by word) that you simply do not care about the other pieces of God’s building? When was the last time you interacted with a fellow Christian outside of your family in a deep, substantive way? When was the last time you actively sought out a brother or sister in order to encourage them or pray for them or exhort them? When was the last time you sent a note of thanks or encouragement or prayer? How often do you miss the scheduled services of your church – not because of illness or work or vacation but because you simply do not feel like going? These are questions we must ask, and we must be honest with ourselves.
God intends for His people to walk in close, committed, regular fellowship with each other. If we neglect that, we are hurting ourselves, and we are also hurting the Church. It is not good – no matter what we think about it. And it is not helpful – no matter what we think about it. Brothers and sisters, love the Church. Make her a priority in your life. You need it, and so do the rest of us. Christ died for the Church, and He is building His Church. We should love what He loves and seek what He seeks. May it be so.