I spent a lot of time trying to convince people that they matter. This is not so easy to believ, is it? What are the reasons that people might not think that they matter? For starters let’s just consider electoral politics in this so-called democracy.
When political polling occurs, pollsters use a scientific model to extrapolate polling a small representative portion and apply it to the entire nation. Only about 75 percent of the voting age population is even registered and only about half of that groups actually shows up to the presidential elections. Beyond this, the New York Times recently revealed the list of 158 people, primarily, white, old men, that contribute half of campaign fund raising. The fact that two of the presidential candidates are related to people who have been president furthers the idea that we don’t really matter.
But aren’t we told we matter all the time? Isn’t that the basis of our civil religion? You can achieve what you want, you can participate and make a difference. And so as we are indoctrinated with that idea from a very young age, the disillusionment we suffer when we encounter the reality that it is false I think factors in to the rest of our lives and experiences.
When we are told we matter, the implication is that we matter for the collective. The disillusionment that we suffer when we realize that we don’t matter for the greater good (as the heads of state have defined it) results I think in a kind of self-centeredness. I was just talking to someone the other day who made the claim that religion is just a survival tactic and that his religion, simply put, was to do what he wanted. He deconstructing every notion serving Jesus within the Body of Christ as simply a matter of personal preference. His salvation was making sure that his life was about making himself happy; he wasn’t concerned about what his self-centeredness would cost, because he assumed that it was in one’s self-interest, for example, to care for someone else.
In this narrative, we are responsible for creating our own reality. And so in our own reality, we create a world where we matter. Unfortunately, it is one where we are the only thing that matters. One that says the whole universe exists through our eyes and our experience.
I think all of these kinds of things occur because we want to matter, we want to contribute, we don’t want to be useless, anonymous.I think our instinct to create meaning and purpose, comes from the creator of meaning and purpose. John tells us that Jesus was with God from the beginning and we are now forming his body.
I just want to emphasize this basic point because it’s so likely that you think you won’t matter. That’s one of the reasons why we are asking people why they love Circle of Hope, because they matter and so does their experience. I suppose that’s also why Sarah and I were sitting on a bench last week holding a sign that asked people to tell us their story. People weren’t exactly sure why we were doing it. A lot of people asked us. And some actually told us a story. I was amazed at their vulnerability.
Simply creating a space and environment for people to know they matter is important. But I actually think that we need to believe we matter in the Body of Christ. We need to figure out that we matter, and for some of us, how we matter.
One of our proverbs says this: It is essential to discover, develop and use one’s spiritual gifts.
We are all gifted members of the body. We are all essential. And we all play a part, could be similar and different. Not everyone is equally or similarly gifted, but we thrive on that kind of diversity. When Paul talks about this very subject to the Corinthians in chapter 12, we begins with saying that we are all one body. We are on a single mission, serving the same God. He’s disrupting the possibility of division in his diverse congregations. But just because we are all one body doesn’t mean there aren’t many members or parts. We are all part of a body and we play a part. Paul says we all need each other too. The body of Christ, his physical representation of earth, needs you to be a part of it.
We respect each other and our gifts for the sake of mutual care and love. If one of us hurts, we all suffer. And if one us rejoices, we all rejoice.
Paul is affirming the body’s individuality and maintaining its integrity. That’s why love is what matters in the end, that’s why chapter 13 is devoted to love, because it is so easy to get divided—not just over theological issues, but lack of reconciliation. Our commitment to our body is tenuous at times. But I think we can do a lot just reminding each other of what we are forming together. If we just consider ourselves part of one body, that’d be a great start.
Sometimes, I think we just think we are the body with our friends, the people we text all the time or something. But we are all together. Look around the room right now, and consider who is here. They are part of the body. And while we consider what it means to be reconciled with one another, also consider what you bring to the body.
Paul will go on later in the passage list off titles like apostles, prophets, teachers—gifts of power, healing, assistance, leadership, tongues, etc. We are not all those things. But we might be one of them. We might bring a gift to the mix. That gift needs to be discovered and developed. Consider what people have told you about how you are gifted and try to respond to those gifts.
Take your gifts and try to discern how they fit into the greater body too. The world will probably suck up your gifts in one way or another, but I think it is elementally important for you to apply your gifts within the body of Christ. Don’t just reconstruct what the body of Christ means and turn it into your Fantasy Football league, or something, I think this right here is an expression of the body of Christ that you are in. So give a little of your gifts.
How has God gifted you? What do you contribute to the body? What role do you play? Our unity, our perseverance, and our strength relies on what you do. The whole world can rob of us of the idea that matter, but I think the Body of Christ and the Church offers us and the whole world an alternative. What part are you going to play?