Colorful – Reflections on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Gotta love new crayons. Ever notice how excited a child is when they get a new box of crayons, even though they may have 500 old ones piled in a shoebox? I have to admit, I even get a little stoked by new crayons. I am much more tempted to sit down and color with my kids when there is a new box to break in. It is amazing to me how there can be a complete resurgence of coloring pandemonium in our house brought on just by a new 24 pack of Crayolas.
So what is it about a new box of crayons that creates such excitement? Well, first of all, every crayon is nice and sharp, perfect for staying in the lines. Second, all the colors are there. It is a complete and total set. So no matter what you decide to create, from a butterfly to a peacock to a rainbow, every color is there for the choosing. No crayon is missing.
This missing color thing can certainly be a problem. There are a considerable amount of tears shed in our house when a certain colored crayon goes AWOL. (And yes, even if it is just the superfluous white one.) Missing colors can be a catastrophe that can wreck a child’s art project. Actually, missing colors can wreck a lot of things. In fact, missing colors would change the world. If yellow were missing, would we have the sun? If green were not there, what color would the grass be? Would there be ladybugs without red and black? It would certainly be a different world without every color. Each one plays a role. Every color has a purpose. After all, that’s the way God designed the world—with color.
In fact, everything God touches overflows with a medley of colors. This even includes His church. In fact, in many ways, God has designed the church to be like a new box of crayons: one of every color, sharpened for use in the hands of the artist. Masterpieces are created…a spectrum of colors etched on white. Blank paper becomes art.
What exactly am I talking about, you ask? Variety. Distinctiveness. Diversity. Each one of us being different…yet put together in the same box so that the artwork of God can be created. This is the wonder of the church which is called His body. God has placed each person in it with uniqueness of personality, strengths, talents, and gifts. Take a look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now God has placed the members , each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body” (vs. 18-19). Many members, one body. Many colors, one box.
As each of us has a distinct color, each of us has an important contribution to make in God’s Kingdom. Certainly, a big part of how we make this contribution is through our spiritual gifts—the unique ways in which God manifests Himself through us to minister to each other and to the world. These gifts combine with our natural talents, strengths, and abilities to create our one of a kind contribution to His church and to His Kingdom. However, we certainly don’t all contribute in exactly the same way. We each have our own individual contribution…our own color. Every single one of us has been placed in his body, “just as he desires” (vs. 18). It was a divine act of God. The moment you came into the family of God, you became irrevocably part of this body. Paul illustrates this truth about the church body with, appropriately enough, the metaphor of a human body: “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body” (vs. 15). It doesn’t matter whether one feels like they are a part of the body or not, whether others treat them as if they are part of the body, or whether they themselves think they are important to the body. Every single one of us is part of the body of Christ. If you are a believer, you are in the box. So, if even one goes missing, the set is incomplete. And the picture that God is trying to create will be missing an important color. No one is unimportant. No one is expendable.
That is just one truth we see illustrated in this passage. But Paul brings forth another truth as well: every one of us needs one another in the body. Paul says, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you;’ or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (vs. 19-21). This must have been a tough pill to swallow for the Corinthian church, many of whom seemed to enjoy thinking they were better than the rest. The Jews needed the Greeks. The men needed the women. The upper class needed the slaves. The rich needed the poor. And certainly, vice versa. They were all deeply interconnected and interdependent. So, they were to behave as such. No one was to be treated as a second class believer. Each one needed the other.
Another powerful truth in this passage is that not only do we need one another, but since we make up one body, we should be deeply connected in each other’s lives. God’s heart shines through in Paul’s words when he says that he desires “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (vs. 25-26). Although we are different, we are united. And being united into one family comes with certain responsibilities: the responsibility to connect with each other in both joys and sorrows. We are to feel another’s pain and reach out to them in that pain. We are to feel another’s joy and rejoice with them in that joy. Unfortunately, however, we often have just the opposite response. How many of us have avoided those who are in pain because we were uncomfortable with it? Or didn’t reach out to someone when they were hurting because we were just too involved with our own life? Yes, most of us are uncomfortable with pain. Most of us feel like we don’t know what to say. Most of us do not want to think about bad things. None of us like hospitals. None of us like funerals. But we are one family, and as such, we are a part of each other’s lives, like it or not. We need to walk with others through their pain.
This also goes for rejoicing. When someone gets good news, do we rejoice with that person? Or does the little green demon of envy rise up in our hearts and create jealousy and cynicism? Do we also go out of our way to celebrate with another? Or once again, are we too absorbed with our own lives to take the time…to send the card, or buy the gift, or make the phone call? This is our calling, friends! As members of one body, we are to be a part of each other’s lives in a significant way. It is our responsibility as members of this family. But, it is also our privilege, for in doing so, we are using our colors to make God’s family beautiful.
The church is certainly a special work of art, created by God to be a family of very different and unique individuals…individuals, nonetheless, who are united as one. When we use our unique gifts and abilities in the body, God will shine through our lives into the lives of each other. As each of us rests in the hands of our great artist, he will use our unique colors to create His masterpiece…His body, the church. And it is this masterpiece, with its beautiful colors and hues, that will display the beauty of our God to the world.