Members of the Body

July 7, 2009 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

This passage from Ephesians has been on my mind, ever since it was the evening prayer reading at an event I attended.

the highlights:

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

This language of body to describe the community of faith also crops up in 1 Corinthians. Romans. Colossians. It’s a fairly dominant image for understanding the Church.

This presents, I think, something of a problem.

I’ll admit- I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew about cultural criticism, and specifically body image in 1st Century Roman Culture.
But these passages read, to me, anyway, in a fairly body-neutral kind of way. Bodies have different parts, they all do their thing to serve the common good. Weaker members get respect. Ultimately- the body grows in building itself up. The body can mostly be trusted to do its thing- with Christ as its head, of course. And we’re like that- if we all do our part, if we all act with kindness and justice and compassion, well- things sort themselves out.

This image takes on a whole different shade of meaning in the current climate of body-hatred. The body is a thing to be tricked, poked, denied, and punished. The body, in most of our current culture, can’t be trusted, and must be tightly controlled.

Apply that backwards, to the metaphorical body of Christ, and membership in the community of Faith is all about denial, unsatisfied hungers, and punishment for anything enjoyable. And hey- who doesn’t want to be a part of that?! Jesus – he’s not a diet, he’s a lifestyle choice. [smirk]

Here is one place where FA and faith come together in a powerful way for me. How I understand my place in the Church- my role in the great cosmic project that is the coming of the Kingdom of God- is intimately connected to how I understand bodies in general. And my body in particular.

I want to love that image of my place as one member of the Body of Christ. One small part of an organic whole that is nourished, that is energized and sustained by taking on what is new, and that periodically rids itself of what is unnecessary*. A body that moves and delights in that movement, that rests, and plays, and holds, and hugs. A body that ejaculates and gestates and nurses.

A body that can be trusted to build itself up, in love.

*Yeah that’s right. I said it. The body of Christ should take a great big dump every once in a while.

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