The Bible is a book full of metaphors—word pictures that God uses to explain who He is and what He requires of us. We are sheep and God is a shepherd. We are treasonous prodigals and God is a forgiving Father. We are trees, able to bear good fruit or bad fruit. Jesus is water, able to refresh the driest, thirstiest soul. From beginning to end, the Bible teaches us using vivid pictures.
One of my favorite metaphors is one we find in Paul’s epistles—the picture of Christians, of the church, as a body. In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul writes, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” A human body is made up of many parts, each of which has its own function, and each of which is integral to the functioning of the whole. And in the same way, each local church is made up of a great variety of people. Each of us is given special gifts by God, meant to bless and encourage other Christians. This makes each person indispensable to the functioning of the whole church. Just as there are no superfluous body parts, there are no redundant Christians. We are all gifted so that we can be a blessing to others.
As a pastor, I have the opportunity to meet many people as they come to our church for the first time. Many of them are looking for a new church—they have just moved to Toronto or have just left a church that has crumbled. I meet with these people and tell them about our congregation, and I invite them to participate in the life of the church.
It does not take long to learn which of them are burdened with the desire to participate fully in the life of the church and to use their God-given gifts to serve others. And it does not take long to learn which of them are coming to the church with the intention of remaining at the fringes. The sad fact is that there are many Christians who want to be served but do not want to serve. They mean to take advantage of the gifts God has given others, but without serving their brothers and sisters with the gifts God has given them.
Ed Welch offers a challenge here:
Persons searching for their gifts think that they can “find” their gifts in isolation from the body. They have forgotten that the orientation of God’s people is outward rather than inward. The question should be this: How can I grow in love for and service to the body of Christ? Gifts are the way we naturally love and serve.
Christian, God has gifted you in such a way that you are a necessary part of a body, a local church. Those gifts are the way you are to love and serve others as you love and serve Christ. Will you use your gifts for their good and His glory?