Category Archives: Body of Christ

Proportions and relationships

One of the first drawings children make of a human being mainly consists of a big head, while hands and feet are just short lines. In German it is called a Kopffüßler. In Swedish a huvudfoting. (Both meaning a head with feet.) In English, the word is a stick figure.

The proportions make sense, because from the head come smiles, encouragement and verbal communication, all things that are important to a 3 to 4-year-old person. On the other hand, it is safe to assume that children are fully aware of what people really look like. They have experienced arms that hug and legs that run to them. This image is just a stage of their development.

This image came to mind as I was thinking of the expression the body of Christ. Paul uses it when he talks about the fellowship of believers. Jesus is the head and the people in the Church are the different parts of the body. When writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul addresses a problem. Some parts of the Church, the body, are looking at themselves as being more important than the others. If we were to draw a picture of what he describes it would be like a stick figure but with a big eye or ear instead of a head.

His point is that none of the evangelists, teachers, musicians, people doing social ministry or any of the others can say that they are the most important part. The uniqueness of the fellowship is that we make up one body where we all need each other. If there is any part more important than the other, it is the head. Christ is the head and no part should take his place of authority.

This year, when there have been or will be elections in many European countries, I wish that society in general would learn from the image of One Body. It seems that some ideologies are very eager to amputate the weak and vulnerable parts of society. Others are angry and envious and will try to harm the strong parts.

In order to have a healthy society we do well to continue building healthy small fellowships. If we practise good relationships and build a balanced body of believers in our families, in church and in the ecumenical fellowships, society as a whole will be influenced.

We are not short of available advice and practical help to achieve this. Paul ends 1 Corinthians 12 by introducing the most excellent way for the parts of the body to function well. The way is love, which he writes beautifully about in chapter 13. In Ephesians 4:15 he says that when we speak the truth in love we will grow and become the mature body of the head, that is Christ.

More practical help is given in chapter 4 of the book Journey of Renewal. That journey starts with considering the people around us. Who are we making this journey with and how are our relationships? It is worth noting that the name of our congregations, “corps”, is taken from the Latin word corpus, which means body. I recommend you to start your journey of renewal and use chapter 4 to grow in the quality and strength of your relationships with people.

It is natural for a body to mature and develop. The image of our fellowship we want to pass on is not a Kopffüßler,  a stick figure but relationships that reflect the beauty of Jesus.

This text has been published in the Heilsarmee Magazin #6/2017

Giving and paying – the difference

There are actions that can look similar but are different. The difference is made up of both my attitude to and the purpose of the activity.

Every month I transfer money from my account to other accounts. Most of them are about paying for something, but I make it a point not to pay anything to my corps/church fellowship. The ten per cent (tithe) I transfer to The Salvation Army is not a payment. It is a gift. The difference is important.

If I have the attitude of paying something towards the building, salaries or programmes, that attitude makes me a customer. I play a part in a trade. I give something to get something back. A payment is based on a contract (a bill) where there is an agreement on the value of the service I have received.

If I identity myself as someone who is dealing in financial matters, it brings me closer to Mammon’s realm than the Kingdom of God. It is important to know who my Master is. I cannot serve two masters. I have to choose one and be faithful to his attitudes. (Matthew 6:24)

When I transfer money to my corps or anywhere else that has to do with supporting the Mission of God here on earth, then I give. Sometimes it can even be an offering. An offering is more noticeable in my finances than a gift. An offering is not valued by how much I give, but by how much I have left.

When I give money, the action is not an outcome of what I have received or what I expect to get back. Giving is an expression of what I have and who I am because of the life of Jesus in me. By giving to the corps/church I attend, I make a confession of being part of the body of Christ.

If I do not give, it makes me a parasite of that body. (A parasite is an organism which lives on a host organism, feeding by sucking life from it.) I give as an expression of obedience to God and as an outcome of his love in me.

The obedience part is, for me, related to the tithing. To give ten per cent is like a precaution against greed and love for money, a simple measure that keeps my relationship with God stable. Depending on my own needs and my financial situation, I can sometimes give more, because I have said to God: “All that I am and all that I have belongs to you.”

To summarise my part: I have a responsibility to be clear about my attitude, understanding and motivation as a giver – not a payer. However, the people who receive my gifts, on behalf of God, also have a responsibility. They are first of all accountable to God, but in a healthy body, a healthy fellowship, there is also openness and accountability to people as well.

I began to give my regular tithe in my late teenage years. The Holy Spirit spoke to my conscience about trusting God in this area. I would never find out if his promises are true unless I was willing to obey him. Over the years I have heard numerous excuses from people about why they do not give regularly to the fellowship. Some think they have clever arguments, but the bottom line is often that their attitude and identity is that of a customer who pays for church programmes and not as a follower of Jesus who is happy to be part of God’s Mission on earth.