December 29, 1998
Rheumatoid arthritis and AIDS are quite different disorders but both are related to the auto-immune system. In RA, the body becomes confused and attacks its own joint fluid as an enemy. Without lubrication, bones grind and wear against each other causing pain and disability.
In AIDS, the auto-immune system is not confused; it just quits. The body loses its capacity to fight external enemies and dies from illnesses such as pneumonia.
While the human body is an amazing organism, these two conditions illustrate how one part working contrary to its intended purpose produces painful and even deadly results.
The New Testament uses the human body as a metaphor for spiritual unity. Those who believe in Christ should function together, just as the parts of our body should.
For instance, the Apostle Paul talks about spiritual gifts by pointing out that each believer has a different gift, just as each part of the body has a different job to do. The eye is not the hand and the hand is not the eye. Each needs the other so all can function.
As a body has many members so it can work properly, so does the Body of Christ. This analogy helps Christians appreciate both our oneness and our differences. It also illustrates the importance of working together. When each part of a healthy body cooperates, that body is strong and productive. The Bible says, “From Christ the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and build itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
However, this analogy also can describe what happens when Christians set themselves against one another. If we do not appreciate our differences, reject unity and refuse to cooperate, we are like a malfunctioning auto-immune system. The results are just as disastrous.
In love, we function like healthy bones and ligaments but if we do not keep ourselves in right relationships with mutual support and instead begin fighting, we are like rheumatoid arthritis. We are destroying necessary “lubrication” and begin to wear and grate against each other.
Loving one another is vital, not only to our health but to our appearance. Jesus said the world will evaluate us by our love (or lack of it) for one another. If the Body of Christ malfunctions, we experience personal and corporate pain and become crippled, even totally disabled, in our ministry to others. Besides, the Bible says if one member hurts, all hurt. In-fighting is like shooting ourselves in the foot.
A malfunctioning Body of Christians has another problem suggested by the analogy and how a human body suffers if it has AIDS. Spiritually, the Bible is clear that the Christian struggle “is not against flesh and blood” but is against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” When we pit ourselves against each other, we become helpless against external enemies. Satan and the powers of evil can easily defeat us.
Paul wrote that if we “yield to God and resist the devil, he will flee” from us. Notice what comes first: yielding to God. The Bible defines that simply as loving Him and loving one another. Jesus said that we show our love for God by loving other Christians.
Everyone wants a healthy body. We do what we can with rest, proper diet, exercise and regular care. In fact, these exercises occupy a major portion of our lives. What a difference it would make if we gave as much attention and effort toward maintaining health in the Body of Christ.