Divide and conquer is a military and political tactic that dates back to before the birth of Christ. It's a strategy that has been employed by Machiavelli, Julius Caesar, Napoleon… and Satan.
You see, we're easier to pick off as individuals. When we believe the lie that we're of no use to other Christians, or when we believe the opposite lie that other Christians are of no use to us, that's when we can so easily run aground. So it's such good news, and such vital news, that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
Today's passage tells us that we all have a part to play in God's plan. Paul writes in verse 7: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” To elaborate:
- To each: that's each of us. That's you, even when you feel discounted. That's everyone else, even when you feel like everything rests upon your shoulders.
- To each is given: you have received a gift, a precious gift. You haven't earned it; it has been bestowed on you with no regard to merit.
- The manifestation of the Spirit: that's God himself, living in you. I'm writing this from a cottage in the middle of a beautiful moor in the Peak District, the heather in early bloom, the swallows darting skittishly, the cool air drifting in. God's beauty is clearly evident in His creation, and He loves us to enjoy it. But God doesn't settle for merely giving us the created; He gives us the one who was hovering over the waters at the dawn of creation.
- For the common good: not to puff ourselves up, nor for its own sake, but to see the Kingdom of God established through the work of God in your life.
And God put us together as the church of Christ. He has “so composed the body” (v. 24). I don't think there's any art-form quite as powerful as when a piece of music has been written with all of the instruments in their right place, so much greater than the sum of their parts. God is the great composer, and we are all invited to join in one song. So it's crucial that we see ourselves in the context of the church, as members of a greater body, created, chosen, loved, and included. And Paul knows this.
Verses 14-20 counter the lie that we're of no use to other Christians, that we don't belong here. It's such an easy lie to believe: it's so easy to compare ourselves to others and find ourselves wanting, to see other people's successes and not be able to see beyond our own weaknesses. But Paul is crystal clear: we are all parts of the same body; we all belong. “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose.” Except you? No. Including you.
Verses 21-26 counter the lie that we don't need the other members of the body, that we can live our Christian lives off-the-grid. Paul describes our brothers and sisters in Christ as “indispensable” (v. 22) – that we care for each other, suffer together and rejoice together. If you look back on the previous eleven chapters and the litany of problems church members are causing, it's quite incredible that Paul would find himself able to write such a thing.
I've had the privilege of being part of the Gateway Church since its birth in 2007. If I'm absolutely honest with myself, I've had times when I've been tempted to believe both of the above lies. But it would be impossible to quantify the impact our church has had on my life and on the lives of my family. We are so much stronger together, each one of us, with the Spirit in us, living and active, for the common good.