Have you ever realized that you’ve been misunderstanding a verse of the Bible? Or maybe you’ve understood a portion of a biblical concept, but you missed the larger point or purpose?
In 2020, I realized that I had been minimizing the grand scale of the “body of Christ.” This concept fills the epistles and is clearly an important part of understanding the work of God in the earth. But I had been imagining the body of Christ incorrectly. My view had become way too narrow.
Because I can become self-focused, I started to believe that the “body of Christ,” was the churches in my region. Intellectually I knew this wasn’t the case and, if you had asked me, I would’ve said that the body is the entire global church. Still, I didn’t think about the global church very often. I surely didn’t see how my faith here in America is connected to the lives of those worshiping God in Asia or Africa or the Middle East.
At best, I saw the American church as the body of Christ.
At worst, I saw the few churches in my city as the body.
My view had simply been too small. I think it’s funny that I live in a global world—I can stay in contact with people on the other side of the globe with ease, but I can get so narrow-minded that I forget about anyone outside my bubble. Paul and other early church leaders incurred great expense in order to take the gospel to a few nations, but they were constantly focused on the global nature of the church.
Though I have access to so much technology, my perspective has remained shockingly limited.
“God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-27 (ESV)
One of the best ways to build camaraderie in a community is through shared experiences. This is why people host “team days” and have group celebrations—these things help bond us together. It’s a way for us to get to know and share something with those around us.
I wonder if our lack of a global perspective of the body of Christ is partially connected to our lack of suffering. Since we don’t suffer alongside them, we struggle to feel a sense of connection with them. Maybe because we tend to live very comfortable lives, we don’t feel a sense of community with those believers who are suffering in other parts of the world.
I’m not advocating that we seek out suffering so that we can be more like those who worship God in authoritarian countries. But I do wonder if our sense of the scale of God working through the global church would change if we suffered more for our faith. As our brothers and sisters around the world know, we aren’t supposed to seek out suffering. Instead, as we pursue Christ, suffering follows.
The ways of Jesus are not popular. They’re not comfortable. The Kingdom of God operates very differently than the world does. And when we follow in Jesus’s footsteps, we will likely draw the attention of those who are threatened by his radical way of life. Maybe, as we live like Jesus, we’ll feel a deeper connection to the other parts of the body of Christ.
Today, I tend to feel a deeper connection to my fellow American who doesn’t believe in God than the believer halfway around the world. That reveals my incorrect priorities. The truth is I have more in common with the person who loves God even if we speak a different language and live in different countries. Yet, I don’t always think about it like that.
As we pursue Christ and suffer for his name, I think we will better understand the suffering of another because we will have also experienced it. Maybe we’ll become more aware of our fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God. And maybe, just maybe, the body of Christ will operate a little differently than it does today.
How do you think suffering and community are connected?
Are you often aware of other believers around the world? Why or why not?