9. Christ Is a Many-Membered Body
Christ is a many-membered body. We are members of one another. The fulness of the Christ-life is that which is shared with other believers. I would be in error if I presented Christ our life only as an individual experience. It is and must be first and always an individual experience, but it cannot ever stay there. The body of Christ is whole people giving to one another out of the love and life of Jesus that fills them.
9. Christ Is a Many-Membered Body
Up until now, I have addressed Christ as our life as individual members of the body of Christ. And that is right and good. Until we are each one walking in the certain knowledge that every part of our being is inside of Jesus, that He carries us, in all of our weakness and limitation, inside of Himself, and that He, Jesus, lives in every part of our humanity, that we, as individual persons, are fully the expression of His life, in the midst of our weakness – until we know this to be true, we have little to offer the larger body of Christ nor they to us.
The body of Christ is not Christians tacked together, nor is it Christians living and walking together in some external arrangement. The body of Christ is a living expression of Jesus in a larger sense than what each of us as individuals can be by ourselves.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Christ is a many-membered body. We are members of one another. The fulness of the Christ-life is that which is shared with other believers.
I would be in error if I presented Christ our life only as an individual experience. It is and must be first and always an individual experience, but it cannot ever stay there. The body of Christ is whole people giving to one another out of the love and life of Jesus that fills them.
Commitment to a group can never make us whole. Nor can it ever birth inside of us the sure and certain knowledge that Jesus is my life and I have no other life. In fact, for many the only place to know Him as our life, to know that He Himself is living as us in all of our humanity, is in the path of solitude.
Then, having become whole people, out of our union of intimacy with the Lord Jesus in every part of our being, we look out through His eyes towards other members of the body of Christ who also walk in the knowledge of our union with Christ. It is here, then, in this connection, that something incredibly grand happens. Christ becomes more than just me, Christ is a many-membered body.
I do not pray for these alone (the disciples), But also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I HAVE given them, that they may be one just as We are One; I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23
God is a community of friendship. God the Father, the Son of God, and the Spirit of God, live together in wholeness as themselves and in completeness together in a bond of friendship and fellowship that flows in currents of depth and power beyond what we can even consider.
The world will believe and will know when they see this same bond of friendship and love revealed in the lives of believers in Jesus Christ.
That they may be one, just as We are One; I in them, and You in Me.
There is something so pure and holy here, so powerful and filled with life. We cannot make it happen. But we can believe God that He does it in us and through us. And we can yield to His workings and see His hand in all things as He does what He says He will do.
Do not limit God. “What I believe” means absolutely nothing. What God says in the New Covenant, I can believe that, and He fulfills it in my life.
Christ in us as us in this world is a community of friendship. As members of one another, each of us complete in Christ, each of us knowing that Christ is all there is in us, out of wholeness in ourselves, we can know a bond of friendship and fellowship with one another that flows in currents of depth and power beyond what we can even consider.
And this bond of friendship is the revelation of Jesus Christ.
This bond of friendship can have very real applications in our lives.
I think of two brothers who know me and whom I know. They know my weaknesses and my strengths. They have seen my failures, and they have seen the glory of Christ moving through me. Though we live far apart now, our friendship is deep and true and not dependent on the fickleness of the experiences of life in this world.
This level of friendship does not come easily, it comes through hard places and difficult, difficult times. It comes through many tears and through great joy.
Our friendship is Christ.
I have a vision of a community of believers in Jesus Christ, whole people who know that Christ is their life, living as them in this world, and who base their life together on friendship, not on some external order or hierarchy of authority. I carried this vision long before I left the communities I was a part of for many years. And the primary reason I left was that I did not see the same vision in the hearts of those brethren at that time. I left because I wanted to see God fulfill the vision He had wrought in my heart.
I was not ready. If I looked at myself, I would imagine that I am not ready now. But over the intervening years, God has taken me all apart and put me back together again. Over the last few years, as He has revealed to me the union I have with Jesus, a union that is already true, He has made me whole inside. I already have the glory that the Father gave Jesus inside of me.
And so it doesn’t really matter if I do look at myself, because when I do, I see nothing but Jesus. My eye is single, I see Him alone. And I am no longer bothered by the messiness of my human person in this world. I am utterly inside of Him. He carries me, all of me, inside Himself; I do not carry myself.
I am convinced that the only thing that will keep us in times to come is God fulfilling His purpose in our lives in accordance with what He has already spoken in His Word. Practical knowledge of how to survive in difficult times is necessary, but we can get that anywhere. Christ in His body, walking together in practical love, that is rare.
I lived for many years in intentional Christian community for these very purposes. We have not been in that way of life for 11 years now, but there is much that I miss. Walking together in this way is not easy. People easily get offended. Forgiveness and acceptance of one another must run very deep inside of us.
But I have a very real knowledge of the meaning of and the need for growing our own food, building our homes and being supportive and kind to each other. By God’s grace, I want to be involved in that again.
I also have 18 years of experience inside that kind of life, including a fair bit of practical knowledge in building community. I also have a deep storage bin of God’s word inside of me as it applies to our life together, combined with a gentle heart. I offer what I have to whoever wishes to draw from it. To give what God has worked in me from His word is the deepest joy of my heart.
Christ is a many-membered body. “As He is, so are we in this world.” Each one of us as individuals is complete in Christ and Christ is all there is in us. But Christ is more than us as individuals. Christ is also that deep bond of fellowship and friendship that flows between whole members of the body of Christ as we walk together in love.