The way that the body is connected together has been brought home to me vividly and rather painfully recently. First of all, I suffered a bout of gout a few weeks back. I woke in the morning with a sore toe. I expected to walk off the pain during the day. By evening, I was hobbling and the toe was fully swollen up. Heading out to the out of hours doctor, I found I could not even put my shoe on. Despite people joking about it being the wealthy person’s health issue, I can assure you that it is no laughing matter.
Gout is caused by the build up of uric acid which accumulates as crystals at specific joints – the big toe being the most popular -hence those sharp stabbing pains. This means that treatment is not focused on the toe itself after an initial dose of high strength anti-inflammatory drugs. The focus is on reducing the uric acid levels in the rest of your body through hydration, diet and sometimes medication.
Pain in one small part of the body can effectively immobilise you and require a whole person response to get it under control.
Then the other week through a careless and fool-hardy attempt to mutli-task, phoning, whilst descending slippery steps in the dark, I found myself flying through the air. Clutching my phone to protect it, I failed. One smashed phone a few grazes and a painful finger, I got myserlf up quickly, mainly concerned that I’d not been seen. The greatest wound being to my pride.
But that wasn’t in fact the main wound. When the swelling refused to go down and my finger remained in severe pain, I headed into A&E fully expecting to be told it was just a bit of bruising and to be more careful. Instead, I was sent off to x-ray and returned to be informed that my finger was in fact fractured. The treatment for this is that it is now strapped up to the one next to it in a method known as buddy strapping. My finger is now dependent upon the one next to it for strength and support if it is to remain stable and heal.
The big nuisance is that the finger is on my right hand which also affects my work and ability to lift things like kettles etc. Just one small limb, one minor injury can cause a whole lot of trouble.
Both incidents remind me of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles,[e] some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.[f]
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
We need one another and that’s why we have the church so that we can support and encouraged each other. Just as pain in the smallest joint affects the whole body, so too, when a member of the church is struggling and suffering, we are all affected. We have to take responsibility for the whole body together.