Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12.12-14, 24-27
Christ’s first body was destroyed on the cross. His first incarnation, or the first time he took a body, ended. He now has two new bodies. He has a resurrection body, which is his original body re-formed and remade. His other body is his church.
There is value in having a body. It is tough to carry on a conversation without one. It is even more difficult to shake hands or embrace. You can’t fix a building without hands or walk into the home of a friend without legs and feet. You cannot hear without ears.
During his first incarnation, Jesus put his body to good use. He spoke to others, and they understood that his words were God’s words to them. He listened to others, and they knew that God heard their prayers. He lifted others up, healed them, and comforted them, giving them the knowledge that God was with them.
Immanuel is not a clever metaphor or a nice way to express a sentiment. Christ was Immanuel because he was actually with us. We could have touched him then. He could not be separated from his body. What he did bodily was what he actually was doing.
Then he died, and his body went away. The world was absent its Immanuel.
But as the high doctrine of the church teaches us, the world got Immanuel back in the church. The church is the body of Christ. He cannot be separated from his body. What Christ does bodily through the church is what he is actually doing.
Christians in One Body make the church Immanuel. Our task is to make God visible in the world. When people ask, Where is God in the midst of all this?, it should be the church who hears and authenticates their complaint, just as it should be the church who answers in word and deed. The mystery of the church requires that we love each other in visible and tangible ways, to portray the visible, tangible love of God. Because what we do is what he is doing. We are his hands. We are his voice. We are his.
Christ will never be visible to the world unless the church begins to act the way he did.
This is hard news, because too often we are a shabby Christ. I don’t mean that we’re ungainly or that we slouch; I mean we do a poor job of our Immanuel, allowing the posture of the church in the world to droop. We become preoccupied with things Christ largely ignored: the hot issues of the day, government, war and the military, doctrinal dispute. We neglect the people Christ came to heal: the sick, the low, the wounded, the blind, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the penitent, the sinner.
We must repent of our shabbiness and better represent Immanuel. We must strive for unity, love, charity, and mercy so the world can be reminded that God is, once again, with us. Only this time, his body is not limited to one small place in space, but has diversified into two billion franchises across the globe. Then they will know that when they speak, God hears, and when they ask for help, it will come.
This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.