A hand's not an eye but...
Not all Christians are individually called to suffer in the way the servants of 1 Peter 2:18-21 were called to suffer. But it’s important to remember that no Christian or group of Christians exists as an independent unit, as if they were not a part of the community of faith. This means that while only certain members of Christ’s body are called to some particular experience or path that it is nevertheless the Church as a single body that experiences this or walks that path.
As a physical body has many parts and is yet one body so also is the Church (Romans 12:4-5). It’s true that the eyes don’t do the hearing or that the nose doesn’t do the seeing; but it is not true that seeing and hearing and smelling are completely isolated and individual workings. Seeing is a function of the body and not merely the eyes!
It is not the eyes that see through the eyes; it is the body that sees through the eyes. It is not the ears that hear through the ears, it is not the nose that smells through the nose. Hearing and smelling is what the body as a single and undivided unit does and it does these things through the various parts of the body.
So it is with the Body of Christ. There are no isolated parts that function independently of the rest of the body. A hand in a body has no existence without the body. It can only be understood as a hand precisely because there is a body of which it is a part. This remains true even though the hand is not the foot and the eye is not the ear. There is diversity within the parts of the body and the hand mustn’t abdicate and lay the burden on the eye. Each one must bear his or her own burden and be held accountable in that regard. The church takes care of its children via its parents and it respects it parents via its children. The church serves its wives via its husbands and its husbands via its wives. Family members were instructed to take care of needy widows so that the "church" should not be burdened (1 Timothy 5:16). There is a doctrine of specificity of responsibility (for example, 1 Timothy 5:8). But we’re not to allow that to mask the truth that when these specific responsibilities are being fulfilled by the various members (parts) that this is the body at work; this is how the body does its work!
When God calls specific people within the body to a particular role we’re not to conclude that they are not functioning as the body! Not everyone was called to patiently endure mistreatment at the hands of harsh masters but because they are members of the body it is the body that is under attack by harsh masters. Christ told Paul in Acts 9 that when he persecuted the people of God he was persecuting their Head.
It’s nonsense for us to think that we exist independent of the rest of the People of God.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.