All for Each and Each for All

Rom. 12:4,5.---' For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.'

Here are the two most certain facts about man---his individuality and his solidarity. There is nothing more certain, more definite, than human individuality. 'We are many,' we are various, we are distinct. But there is this other fact, which seems to involve a contradiction, and yet which is just as sure. We are separate and yet inseparable. Our lives are most strangely interwoven. 'We who are many, are one.'

Now, no religion can be true, and no movement which claims the allegiance of men can be true, which does not take into account these two great facts of human existence. It must insist upon the right of every man to develop that unique personality with which God has endowed him to the full height of its possibilities. It must encourage him to be himself, and to complete himself along his own lines, or rather along God's lines for him. And yet it must enforce the obligations that each man owes to other men and to mankind as a whole. It must tell him that he cannot develop that individuality of his along the truest lines, except in service.

No man lives unto himself alone. Whether he likes it or not man is a social being. He can realize himself, even as an individual, only through some form of communal life. What would any of us be like, but for family, for school, for college---each of them a life mediated through social sympathies and exclusions? At times these are apt to seem fetters, but we have learnt to see in them the very condition of realizing ourselves. Service is the only perfect freedom.

St. Paul states the true view of our lives when he compares each of us to a part of the human body. As the members of the body are different, as the hand and the eye fulfil various functions, yet are both essential to the well-being of the whole body, so in the mass of Christian people each has his own gifts and his own powers, which are essential to the whole, and are to be used for the general welfare.

We, in our modern prosaic way, talk of a machine when we want to describe any community constituted for a special purpose; and when we would illustrate the power that works it, we think of fuel, steam, or electricity. He spoke of the living body, and thereby he made plain the common, sustaining life of the whole community, and its ruling principle, as personal and alive---Christ risen, who had bought the body by His service and sacrifice.

Life can be likened only to life. A machine, however cunningly devised, cannot do more than indicate how parts are put together and what sort of work they can turn out. You can take a machine to pieces and put it together again; but you cannot do that with the living organism. If one part is worn or broken you can replace it by another part made at the factory; but it is not so with the animal body. There the hurt of one member is the hurt of the whole: it cannot be scrapped and replaced by a new member of the same kind. The life comes from within and lives in every member, so that the hurt of one is the hurt of all and the health of the whole body is the health of each part.

The Apostle Paul does not discard other illustrations of the truth which he has in view. In particular he often uses the old analogy of a building. 'Ye are God's building,' he tell the Corinthians; and to the Ephesians he says that they 'are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.'

Now an analogy must never be pressed beyond the point which it illustrates. When the Church is spoken of as a building the emphasis is usually on its stability, and hence the stress laid on the foundation, the corner stone, in so many passages. The building is also a unity of many parts and may be taken as the symbol of the household or community which it shelters. But the analogy conveys nothing as to the life of the community; and so, when we speak of its growth, our thought is really seeking out another and deeper analogy---the analogy with the living body.

It is not an outward ordering but an inward quickening. We are members one of another, and the word member is from "membrum," which means a limb, a living part of a living body, sharing a common life.

Here we touch the central point of St. Paul's teaching. It is the common life which makes the body a unity of many members. Each member has its own work to do; but they all serve one body and are sustained by a single life.

The work is manifold, as the members are many; but they all spring out of one spiritual life. For 'all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to ever man severally as he will.' In this spirit is the common life and energy that animate the whole community, so that through it diversities of gifts and operations conspire to the common good: 'we, being many, are one body in Christ.' The Spirit which achieves the unity and proves the power of the Christian community is simply the Spirit of Christ.

All experience proves that we are not separate, fenced-in spirits. We penetrate each other, influence each other for good and evil, for the giving or taking of vitality, all the time. Souls, all souls, are deeply interconnected. And this interaction of souls, this mysterious but most actual communion, deepens for its life and reality on God, Spirit, the immanent creative life, who penetrates and indwells us all, working in and with us. We are all linked in Him. Therefore it is literally true that the secret pressure of the Eternal is present in all movements of mutual service and love.

What is needed is not so much the rebuilding of an edifice as the renewal of life. Our Lord never said, Society must be reconstructed, or The world must be rebuilt. What He said was, man must be born again---born of the Spirit. Unless the spirit is renewed what does the fashion of the building matter? They begin at the wrong end who plan first the shape and size of the house without giving thought to the life that is to dwell therein. 'Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that built it.'

We need not depreciate the importance of the "problems of reconstruction," as they are called. But the first problem is the problem of the spirit. In what spirit are we to live our lives in the days that are coming? All the other problems follow upon this. If we could solve it their solution also would be easy. If we really sought and obtained the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things would be added to us. They are the accessories; it is the essence---the spirit of the new life.

If we are members of one another in Christ,' then it is evident that symmetry and efficiency should result from the hearty union and cooperation of so many diverse parts. All have not the same function, as all have not similar or equal talents; but there is a place for every one, however peculiar or meager his ability, and no one can be spared. As it takes many men to make a world, so it takes everybody to make an effective Church, or a strong and healthy State. The ways in which the common cause may be advanced, and the work done to which all are summoned, are as numerous and as varied as the faculties with which we are endowed. There is no one but may do some service, or some niche.

We want to realize more fully that we are members of a body, and of the Body of bodies, even Christ. This alone will raise us from our selfish isolation. If we realized that we were members of a body we should feel that the honor, the history, the life of Christianity, were our own. And if there is in each member of the Body of Christ the spirit of sacrifice, the spirit of the Cross, then it matters not whether the function which we fulfil be humble or exalted, provided that it be well done.

No one is more necessary or essential than another, and there can be no claim to a share in the grand result save by service. When there is even one member missing, diseased, defective, or idle, by so much is complete symmetry marred, and a perfect result hindered and impaired.

On the basis of our membership in Christ the dream of unity becomes a reality. We look with shame and sorrow on the divisions, sometimes passing from separation to antagonism, which break up the body of Christendom, and which, at least as much as any other cause, mar the victorious progress of our Lord's Kingdom, against the dead weight of apathy and ignorance, and the positive hostility of sin and unbelief.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha