Monday, January 30, 2012

The Body of Christ and Decision Making

I continue to “introduce” myself with blog posts describing my spirituality.

Last week, I shared about my faith rooted in Paul’s theology of the Body of Christ. I wish I could put into words how much this mystery means to me. How do we let this simple idea of Paul’s become the “operative theology” of the church?

We are not an organization but an organism, a living and breathing body. That means two important things. First, all of us have an important part in the whole. Secondly, the health of the whole system is the key to growth.

My favorite line in the communion liturgy was phrased by my friend Dick Esslinger, professor of liturgy and contributor to the hymnal. The pastor presiding at the table says, concerning the bread and juice, “make them become for us the body and blood of Christ, that we might be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”

The adage “we are what we eat” applies strangely to communion. We live what we take into our being. We don’t always get it right, but are always becoming the body of Christ.

Paul’s metaphor of the human body helps me to understand how to be the body during decision making. It’s inevitable that there will be opinions and even disagreements in God’s church. This is not because there is something about being the church that leads to disagreement. It’s because there is something about being human that is prone to conflict.

Being the body of Christ means embracing the truth that conflict is not a problem but an opportunity. This is how we learn. Just as the human body is always dealing with challenges, building a strong immune system is the key to growth. Strong churches are not measured by whether or not they have disagreements, but by how they deal with them. Learning the ways of grace - effective, direct, and loving communication - is what makes a church great!

There is no “us and them,” no winners and losers. We are all discerning God’s will together. On the front end of a decision, this means a lot of listening and transparency on the part of leaders. On the far end of a decision, we foster an atmosphere of trust in the process, and we let it go when things didn’t necessarily go our way. In the body of Christ, the process is more important than results.