Suffering for the Body
I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
2:1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong. – Colossians 1:24-2:5 [New Living Translation]
Peter speaks of the Church as a building with living stones, built around a precious and chosen cornerstone, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-6). He gets that idea, no doubt, from Jesus’ renaming him from Simon to Peter (Rock-man). Paul speaks of the Church as a body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, and in the above passage). When he was on the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him, and asked, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul was persecuting the Church: the Body of Christ. Saul eventually became Paul the missionary.
As the Body of Christ we are a precious lot. We are worth suffering for. We are worth toil and struggle, and agony. I’m not sure I really take that to heart as I should. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices Paul, Peter, James, John, and many others made for the sake of the gospel message. I am humbled by the incredible persecution the early Christians endured while they remained faithful to Jesus. It amazes me that Paul went to the lengths he went, and suffered to the extent he suffered for the sake of the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 9:16).
I love the Body of Christ analogy. One of my favorite illustrations of how that is supposed to work is to speak of stepping on a Lego® block in the middle of the night. Your vocal cords tighten. Your eyes squint. Your tear ducts open up. Your hands go toward your foot. Your foot goes toward your hands. Your inner ear kicks in to help you maintain your balance. Your diaphragm contracts, sending air from your lungs through your tightened vocal cords. You emit a scream, “Eeeeeeeeeeooooooowwww!” Your whole body gets in the act when one part suffers.
The same is true when you experience deep gladness and joy. Your whole body reacts. From the smile on your face, to the endorphins released through your limbic system, to the puffing of your chest and warm embrace of someone nearby. Or a high five. Or a “WOO HOO!” Think a walk-off grand slam. Think of a last minute field goal. Think of an unexpected check in the mail. Your whole body joins in the act of joy and celebration.
The blessings we enjoy as members of Christ’s body are for us all. And people have gone to great lengths to bring that joy and blessing to us. And we should never abrogate those blessings to ourselves alone. We. Should. Never. Abrogate. Those. Blessings. To. Ourselves. Alone. People have suffered, sacrificed, and struggled to bring those blessings to us. We should all, therefore, be thankful. Together.
We live in a very individualistic society and time. Everyone wants to define for themselves what is good or evil; what is praiseworthy or abhorrent. We climb on the latest scandal (and, Lord have mercy, there are many many lamentable things happening in the world today!). We beat up on the latest villain – too often of our own personal reasons. Somehow we’ve lost the more complete understanding of the Body of Christ, the community of believers, the communion of saints.
God loves the whole church. His desire is for us to flourish as his community of the redeemed. Paul suffered greatly for the name of Jesus and for the sake of the Body of Christ – of which we are a part.