26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.
1 Corinthians 12 is that “one body, many parts” passage that is a favorite in many congregations. At least, it is one they hear pretty frequently. It comes up when new officers and elders are being installed, or when there is some controversy in the congregation that needs to be addressed tactfully, or just because it came up in the lectionary this year.
When this showed up in a daily meditation email today the person writing the meditation was making a statement about racism and the divisiveness our nation is currently experiencing. But my mind took a weird left turn (surprise, surprise!) and I looked at it literally. I thought to myself, “But wait. What about Stephen Hawking? His entire body was pretty much non-functional, but his brain . . .Wow.” I mean, the entire world knows that he was without a doubt one of the most brilliant people on the planet. It was said about him that “he roamed the cosmos from his wheelchair.” Clearly, ALL parts of him did not suffer, nor did all the other parts of him celebrate when the accomplishments of his brain were honored.
Obviously, Paul wasn’t thinking about someone like Stephen Hawking. No one in his condition could have survived in pretty much any other historical time than our own. Paul wasn’t thinking about the exceptions at all. He was making a very broad, very general statement about how the body usually responds to situations involving change to its physical or emotional well-being.
I imagine most of us are guilty of that sometimes - taking a general statement someone makes, or even a statement about a specific situation, and immediately respond with “But what about this other thing, which may or may not have any relevance whatsoever to what you are talking about?” If we follow that kind of response down the rabbit hole, it is often difficult to bring the discussion back to the specific thing, which in the case of 1 Corinthians 12 is congregational unity. Talking about specific physical bodies, like Stephen Hawking’s, is a distraction and removes the focus from the important thing.
If one member of our tribe, our family, our congregation suffers, then all of us suffer until that situation is made right. If one person is mistreated it hurts all of us. If one is uplifted, all of us benefit. The spiritual health of the congregation - and the world - is dependent upon each individual being recognized and celebrated for their value to the whole.
Lord God, help us to avoid becoming distracted from what you desire for us. Let us remember that no one of us is more important than any other one, for all are equally part of your family. Amen.