Rev John Henderson

Bishop Lutheran Church of Australia

‘…in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5 – NIV).

Do you remember those three-legged races at school camps and church picnics? With one leg tied to that of another person, you tried to walk, run, or most likely stumble together to the finish line. Awkward, even agonising, at least the races were mercifully brief. The hilarious spectacle you made was often more important than the actual competition.

I expect such races are off the agenda these days, especially during COVID-19.

The three-legged race, however, is an apt illustration of learning to walk together. I rarely chose my partner. He was chosen for me out of a pool of available candidates. We would barely know each other’s names, but suddenly we were joined in intimate physical contact, trying to merge as one.

When we succeeded in establishing a sort of rhythm, momentum would often take over and our different heights and weights would put us on the ground. If I tried to force my partner to walk or run my way, this would always end in total collapse. He would become a dead weight. Trying to stand up again was harder than learning to walk together in the first place.

I have never read of a three-legged race in the Bible, but I have read of Christians learning to walk together as members of the one body. St Paul writes about it in a well-known passage in Romans 12 and expands on it in 1 Corinthians 12. He emphasises how all the different parts of the body work and move together. Each part must pay careful attention to the needs of the others.

St Paul says that the body of believers is the body of Christ. As the body speaks, acts and walks, so Christ himself speaks, acts and walks.

In the body, all the parts belong to each other. No single part can be lopped off without the whole body taking a blow. And as we know from personal experience, a pain in the smallest part of the body resonates through our whole being. It is the same with Christ: he feels the pains and the hurts in his body – our pains, and our hurts.

Bodies, of course, are made to move. Christ’s body is also made to move.

St Paul tells us how: in prophesying, in serving, in teaching, in encouraging, in giving and in showing mercy. The body of Christ is alive and breathing, always doing something, engaging in the world with the mission of Christ.

So, this business of learning to walk together is much more than a curious pastime. It is of the essence for Christian faith and life.

If we want to grow in faith and move forward in our spiritual life, we must learn to walk in step with each other. We need to value each other. We need to forgive each other for any missteps. We need to encourage each other and celebrate our progress together. When we fall, we will feel the other’s pain as much as we feel our own. We won’t want to coerce or overcome other members of Christ’s body by force because we would only be hurting ourselves, and even worse, hurting Christ.

This is a great mystery. God chose us and gave us faith. As we share that faith, God opens up between us an extraordinarily intimate, sacred space. As fellow believers, saints in the body of Christ, we care for one another, pray for one another, and bow down as one before the throne of grace, where he forgives our sins and equips us, once more, to move out into the world with his mission of truth and love.

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