My Big Toe, I Corinthians 12, and the Body of Christ

You’ve seen it hundreds of times in spy movies, or read about it in a book. The hero, after fighting off dozens of bad guys, is finally knocked unconscious, awakening in a dimly lit, cold, dank dungeon. A truly evil face is staring at him as he regains consciousness. “You think you can resist us, but you will change your mind once we begin pulling out your nails, one by one.”

Okay, maybe a little heavy there.

For the last two weeks, I have been self-treating an ingrown toenail on my big toe. Over the past weekend, the pain began to override the every four hours of Advil, and my OTC meds weren’t making a dent. I called my doctor Monday morning to see if he would refer me to a specialist. “No problem,” his nurse said, “He does these all the time. We can see you tomorrow.”

With only a little trepidation (especially after almost passing out this morning after bumping my toe on the bedpost), I greeted my doctor and showed him the toe. With a sly grin that masked the truly evil person he is, he barely touched the toe and said “Does this hurt?” After coming down off the ceiling, I managed to nod. (The preceding sentence is just hyperbole – my doctor is a great guy, has been for the 17+ years I have known him, and furthermore, is my age. Somehow it is comforting to know your doctor really understands what’s going on in your middle-age body).

He then said, “That nail has got to come off so we can treat the whole problem, not just the pain. Are you game?” (Flashback to all those movies)

My reply? “As long as anesthesia is involved, and the end result is the pain going away, I’m good for whatever you recommend.”

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 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. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (I Corinthians 12:12-26)

It might have just been a pain in my big toe, but one thing led to another, and before long my whole body was involved:

  • Shifting weight off the front of my foot caused my heel to hurt
  • To relieve the heel pain, I altered my stride while walking
  • Before long, my back began to ache
  • With an achy back, I could not sit in my usual work position
  • With the toe sensitive to even the lightest touch, I did not sleep well
  • Taking 400mg of Advil every 3-4 hours around the clock for 2+ weeks eventually has its own issues

Who knew what big problems a little toe could cause?

In a sense, that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul was talking about in the passage above.

The gathered believers are the Body of Christ, and like the human body, have different roles to play in a healthy Body. When everyone is doing their part, the Body is functioning as it was intended.

But when one part of the Body is not working as it was designed, the whole Body suffers.

God created each believer with as specific role and gifting. If you are not fulfilling that role and using your gift, the Body suffers.

What’s your role?

What’s your gift?

Are you contributing to a whole, healthy Body? Or is your absence causing the Body to suffer?


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