48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Alright, here’s that same verse again. As we read it, there is an implied “you” in this command, meaning the audience is “personal you.” YOU (*points virtual finger*) be therefore perfect, as your Father is.
We are not meant to take this on alone. I’ll say that now before any of you become overwhelmed with this command that we have been discussing. “Be perfect,” is directed towards an audience that is more than an individual– far beyond the capacities of you or me. I say this to encourage y’all. To let you know up front, before I go deeper, that this is not a single-person game. It’s multiplayer.
So a little backstory before I continue with our main scripture, here. I’m about to give y’all a mini Spanish lesson. I recently took two courses over the summer, and crazily enough, it opened my eyes to God’s word all the more! So get ready for a foreign language crash-course!
Okay, so you see here the translations for the subject pronouns. Now, let’s revisit that scripture, only shake it up a bit, in Spanish!
48Sed pues vosotros perfectos, como vuestro Padre que [está] en los cielos es perfecto.
And do you see what pronoun is used when we look at it in Spanish? That’s right. Vosotros, meaning you (plural), or as I like to say, y’all. In our English translation, there is no difference in you (singular) and you (plural), so upon first glance in English, the assumed pronoun in this verse would be you (singular) or tú, in Spanish. This simple understanding of pronouns makes all the difference.
By ourselves, we fall short of the glory of God, but together, unified in faith and submitting to him, we can love with his love and be perfect. This requires each part to do its work, to contribute to the functionality of the body. We will all still fail, that truth is not omitted. However, even at a congregational level, God uses weaknesses like our individual and collective failures as access points to edify the body. Though our gifts and talents are ways that the body can be built up and show God’s perfect love, weakness is really the key to perfection of the whole.
I could go into the mechanics of how the body works and write a lovely analysis of the different moving parts and whatnot. But Paul puts it so much better than I would…
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
-1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Right off the bat, Paul says it. The body is made of many parts —and so we are but a mere part of the overall body that is called to be perfect. Just because this is a command for a group does not mean that we as individuals are off the hook for not following God’s word. As you can see further on in the verse, working parts are absolutely necessary in the functioning of the whole. The two scenarios Paul mentions are important to note. There are ways in which we as parts of the body can cause dysfunction of the whole. One being insecurity, the second being pride.
As an arm or a finger or a nose — whatever body part you care to think of yourself as — we have a specific job. No finger can smell, no nose can pick things up, etc. You get the point. Yet somehow followers of Christ (myself included, though I wish not) manage to warp the irreplaceable roles of the unique parts into comparisons and competitions. Paul warns against both denying our part in the body of Christ and denying the part of others’ in the scripture above.
Denying Your Part in the Body of Christ
My church assignment is not significant, I am beneath others, my small part in the whole doesn’t make a difference. These are all sayings that are stated when the individual is feeling inferior in comparison to others in the body. Comparing is a dangerous game to play, and it risks the imperfection of the whole. Lemme explain more on that.
When one person’s assignment is to be an usher at church or pass out the communion trays, it may be tempting to think that their part is more expendable than the lead evangelist or elders. When these thoughts are entertained, however, we are embracing an unlevel view of others, therefore raising and lowering members of the body to false standards in our minds. Every role is needed. To think that our part is too small or insignificant is focused on self, therefore making it impossible to be a perfect whole, outwardly focused on others and the love of God.
Think of a cell in our bodies. The cell has a specific function, a designated niche, and must follow through with its job. If we personify this cell to be an insecure part of the body, fully believing that its role is not big enough to make a difference, then the whole body falls apart at the expense of the cell’s comparison. Truth be told, the cell probably had no idea how performing its job correctly affected the other parts. The heart was able to pump blood, the brain was able to make cognitive decisions and guide the arms and legs to do their proper work. Without that cell, the heart beat ceases and the brain stops, the body is no longer at work or moving. It is virtually paralyzed.
When God calls us to a place to serve, we should do it because we are doing it for HIM, not others or ourselves. If we are truly doing our part in the works of the body for the right reason, then no role should be too small or insignificant. God has chosen you. He has chosen me. Who are we to say that our part is not beneficial or valuable to the perfection of Christ’s body?
Denying Others’ Part in the Body of Christ
It’s one thing to deny our own part in the body, it’s another to deny someone else’s. Humility is key. We should not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3), but rather remember that we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are all sinners, each of us on the same level as the next. If we continue to have this sober judgement of ourselves, then we cannot say that we don’t need a member. We cannot judge.
If we have the mindset of the eye and the head from the passage in 1 Corinthians, then we are not displaying the love of Christ. Instead, we are making our own selves the judge and stating, “You are welcome in the body as soon as you become stronger. Once you overcome your weakness and reduce your flaws you can become apart of us.” This is not what Jesus did. In fact, he died while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and even then, loved us through our weakness. Competing and puffing ourselves up denies the love of Christ and therefore makes the body incapable of following the command to be perfect, to love like our Father loves.
The love of God shows strongest when it is extended to those who we wouldn’t believe deserved it. The alcoholic that keeps showing up to church. The woman who is struggling with the sin of impurity. The divorced couple that doesn’t want to work things out. Rather than condemn them, we love them with even more care and respect, just as the private parts of the body are treated. Just as our individual role helps in building up the body, so does theirs. We must not forget or neglect that fact.
The human body needs all parts to be present and doing their part. The fingers must grasp things, the eyes must see clearly, the legs must walk. If you really think about it, though, the individual parts, even if they are doing their fair share, can only do so much. It is only when they all work together that a car can be driven or a meal can be prepared. More than the simple existence and acceptance of all parts, they must cooperatively work together. In order for real action to take place, the body parts must depend on one another. The same holds true with the body of Christ. It is in the way of weakness where perfection is truly possible.
As I mentioned in previous posts, these concepts that I explored are all thanks to the awesome book that I had the privilege to review, “The Paradox of Perfection.” The link is attached below, I HIGHLY recommend reading it!