We have all heard of those diseases that doctors just can’t figure out. The person is doing all they can to fight the disease but their own body is working against them. These types of diseases are known as autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body actually attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen (intruder) and attacks it. In the simplest of terms the body interprets a part of its own body to be an enemy and seeks to destroy it at all costs, even at the expense of poor health to the rest of the body.
Nowhere is the statement more true, “a body divided against itself cannot stand.” From the outside it is clear to see that the end is dismal, even though the body unknowingly thinks it is doing its job to the best of its ability. The antibodies are released; the white blood cell count rises. What often happens is that the body is brought to a state of disrepair and brokenness, all due to an inner conflict within the body. Obviously, this is not how our bodies were originally designed by the Creator, but this is the resultant effect of sin.
It’s doubtful the apostle Paul understood this micro-pathology of the human body when he wrote to the Corinthians but he still captured the essence of it in 1 Corinthians 12:20-21, 26, “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ … And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Paul stresses the interdependence of the Body of Christ, that we really do need each other. Can you imagine an eye, or a leg trying to go it alone? Or an ear trying to be independent? Of course not; it sounds like a bad 1950’s “B” movie.
Unfortunately, we see this autoimmune disorder occur all too often in the Body of Christ. One member of the Body deliberately attacks another feeling like they are doing the right thing in eradicating an “evil disease.” The result is an emaciated structure, not glorifying to Christ. When we as the Body of Christ do this, we amputate part of the Body. We sever fellowship with someone whom God has placed within the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is fragile. Paul cautions against this in Galatians 5:15, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” If we are not careful, we will end up looking like a bunch of body parts strewn all over rather than finely crafted diverse parts working together for the glory of the Kingdom.
Don’t get me wrong, if there is sin in the Body we need to address that, but we need to be real careful to do it according to the surgical procedure outlined in Scripture, according to Matthew 18, and above all with love and respect. Remember, they are part of your body. Discipline is intended to restore an ailing member to the Body. Nowhere in Scripture do I see that we have the right to simply walk away from fellowship with each other because that “member” is bad. We need to address their sin for the health of the Body; there is a difference between restorative healing and an amputation.
If you need to make a call, make a call. If you need to visit someone, visit someone. Rub shoulders with someone with whom you used to fellowship. If there is something crooked in how you have treated someone in the body of Christ- set it straight! Visit another church from time to time. See how others in the Body of Christ are doing.
Above all, Glorify Christ!
[The Shepherd’s Echo is a previously published TheShepherdsPen]