I had an interesting e-mail exchange with a friend of mine the other day. It made me think about the different gifts God has given each of us.
Some have what could commonly be called the more "visible" gifts of apostles, prophets, pastors evangelists, and teachers. Others have what might be considered the "invisible" or "behind the scenes" gifts of administration, organization, hospitality or intercessory prayer.
Every gift is necessary. But I think we are all guilty at times of putting more value on the gifts that get attention than on the ones that don't. It makes sense, on a certain level. After all, we see these people operating in their gifts! Therefore, we often slip into assuming they are somehow more important than others, including ourselves. It can also lead to putting them on a pedestal. It's a real human tendency, but not necessarily a good or accurate one.
During the years we were going back and forth to the "Children's Hospital" in St. Louis on a regular basis for Jordan's pre-transplant check-ups, and certainly in the days and weeks following his surgery, I saw firsthand a marvelous picture of how the church should work.
A hospital might not be the first place you would think to look to find a picture of the body of Christ in action, but I have never forgotten the startling insight it afforded me, and that's what I was explaining to my friend.
Every single person who was employed by the hospital had a job to do. From the custodial staff to the technicians to the nurses to the residents to the surgeons. And although in that secular setting there was a very real pecking order, it occurred to me there shouldn't be.
After all, if the people who were responsible for creating a germ-free operating room and sterilizing the equipment didn't do their job, the surgeon's skills would be wasted because the patients would invariably die.
If those responsible for making and delivering the meals didn't do their job, the patients would have a difficult time getting the nutrition they needed to recover.
If the nurses didn't tend to the patients after the surgeon brought all the years of his schooling, training and skill to bear, the outcome might be quite different than if they received the post- surgery care and attention they needed.
If the technician didn't perform the necessary tests, there isn't a single doctor who wouldn't be at a severe disadvantage in treating the patients.
Likewise, if the surgeon wasn't highly educated and rigorously trained for years, a lot of the other jobs I just mentioned might not be necessary.
So whose job, in this unique community of joint effort for a specific purpose is most important? Which is more valuable?
I think the correct answer is: None of them. Or all of them equally. The truth is, it takes all of them performing their individual responsibilities to the best of their ability to create a successful outcome.
And so it is with the church.
Paul makes the point quite clear in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, where we read: "For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, 'because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,' it is not for this reason any less part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,' it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members but one body. 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.' On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and on our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, but that the members should have the same care for one another."
So there you have it. We each have a job to do that has been graciously bestowed on us by our loving heavenly Father according to His unsurpassed wisdom.
None of us are more important than the other. And God makes the paradoxical statement that the weaker parts are really very important and the ones we think aren't worth much are the ones we are to give the most care to. Remarkable.
If you don't know your place in the body of Christ, I hope you will pray and ask the Lord to show you where and how He would have you serve.
If you already know, I hope you will pray that the Lord will keep you from comparing yourself to another and thinking your part is less important than someone else's.
And when you have a chance, you might give a hearty pat on the back to someone whom you know is listening to their "Head" and exercising their gift and contributing to the body.