September 15, 2015

A Hot Tub and a Broken Toe

1 Corinthians 12:22-26

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

—  1 Corinthians 12:26

When I ease into a hot tub, the water touches only my skin, but my whole body luxuriates in the pleasure. When I broke one of my toes, only the toe had an injury, but my whole body was troubled by the pain. Our bodies share pleasure and suffering automatically.

Such sharing is not so natural with the body of Christ. Jealousy reduces our rejoicing when one part is honored. Selfishness or fear shrinks our empathy for someone else dealing with a hardship. If a church wants to be a healthy community, it needs to learn a behavior that comes naturally for our physical bodies. We need to understand why our bodies behave this way, so that our church body can desire to mimic this attribute.

Our bodies share pleasure because the whole body benefits. Though only my skin feels the bubbling hot-tub water, my blood vessels, heart, lungs, and brain benefit from the relaxing heat. Our bodies share pain to protect the injured part. While my broken toe was healing, my whole body moved differently to protect the injured part.

In the body of Christ, if we could set our jealousy aside, the whole body would take pleasure in the honor of one member. If we took care to protect and assist one person who is struggling, the whole body would benefit from that person’s healing.

Empathic God, forgive me for being so focused on my own life that I won’t hurt or rejoice with ­others. Teach me a love that empathizes with others in their struggles and joys. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Mark Stephenson

Rev. Mark Stephenson is the Director of Disability Concerns for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Previously he served in two congregations in Michigan. He and his wife have four children.

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