1 Corinthians 12: 12-26

Paul writes to the Corinthians that our unique gifts, especially the gifts of those that appear to be weaker, are indispensableto the healthy functioning of the Body of Christ: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor 12:21-22, NIV)

Jeff McNair serves as Professor of Special Education and Director of the Disability Studies MA program at California Baptist University. At disabledchristianity.blogspot.ca he writes,

 “People with disabilities have the potential to cause wholesale change (in) the church and (to) the traditions of the church with their presence. So they may seem weak but the power of their presence is actually so powerful that if embraced it will change everything within the church. They are therefore, both indispensable and incredibly powerful to change the church… though seemingly weaker.”

The indispensability of the gifts of those who may appear weaker brings to mind God’s exhortation to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  This should cause each of us  to stop in our tracks and ask ourselves – how is God’s power revealing itself through my weakness? Through my vulnerability? The answer may be humbling. Perhaps we have gotten too good at hiding our own weakness and vulnerability, in the same way that we sometimes hide the weakness and vulnerability in our church communities in order to appear strong, when appearing weak actually leads to growth and God’s power working in us.

armIn Romans, Paul writes “just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Rom 12:3-5). Each of us belongs to all of the others. This is much more than making a place for those who are different than us – more than inclusion. This is more even, than recognizing that those who appear weak have an important role to play. This is coming to see that we belong to one another and are indispensable to one another. My spiritual health – our health as the church – is intrinsically linked to your belonging, your indispensable contribution to the Body of Christ.

In these passages, much of the focus seems to be on what gifts bring to the community.  Both Paul and Peter emphasize that each one of us has been given a gift to share with the Body of Christ. Paul writes: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).  Peter puts it this way: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pe 4:10, ESV). Both following 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, though, Paul goes on to emphasize the priority of love in exercising the gifts that we have. 1 Corinthians 12 is followed by the ‘love passage’ which Paul introduces by writing “I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31, ESV). The exercise of our gifts is secondary to the love we show others, those who are among us.

Providing the opportunity for each person, with or without disabilities, to share their God-given gifts is essential to a healthy community. A church or community will genuinely thrive, though, only when love is present. Love requires another and in this way we begin to see how each of us belongs to all ‘the others’. Love only find its fulfillment when the Other is flourishing as the person God has intended him or her to be.