We have a curious human tendency to accord high esteem to society’s “celebrities.” These are people who, either by virtue of fortune or fame or position, are deemed important, deserving of greater status and respect than “normal folks.”
Musicians, movie and TV stars, elite athletes, politicians – these are the “E.F. Huttons” of our day. When they speak, we feel compelled to listen, giving credence to what they say. Even when it’s outside of their areas of expertise. This can be good, but also can be bad.
This happens within Christian circles, too, when attraction to noted speakers, authors and musicians sometimes borders on idolatry. Most of the “superstars” of the Church today are very different from those that received lots of attention when I was beginning my faith journey decades ago, but the glorification given to them is the same.
It's as if there are two classes: the “somebodies” and the “nobodies.” As if people like you and me don’t matter. We’re just here to fill pews, undertake odd jobs no one else wants to do, applaud the “special” folks’ performances, and put money into the offering plates.
Reading the Scriptures, we discover this isn’t a new phenomenon. Using the human body as a metaphor, the books of Romans and 1 Corinthians both talk about the Church, comparing it to the body which has made parts that perform a wide variety of functions. For example:
“The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they are one body. So it is with Christ. For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we are all given one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
The problem occurs when we start thinking that one part is more important than another, as the passage goes on to explain with tongue-in-cheek imagery:
“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” (1 Corinthians 12:15-17).
Our pastor recently illustrated this in one of his messages. He observed that at business meetings, when seeking a consensus, someone might request, “All in favor, raise your hands.” No one says, “All in favor, raise your feet.” Does this mean hands are more important than feet? Try walking on your hands all day and see how that works for you. Or attempt to compete in a 100-yard dash using your hands.
During my dating days, when my friends and I spoke about girlfriends or young ladies we found interesting, we would say things like, “She has beautiful eyes!” But never once did any of my buddies say to me, “Man, she’s got beautiful ears.” That might work for rabbits, but for humans, the eyes have it.
Taking this comparison a step further, we also talk about trying to see “eye-to-eye.” Interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone suggest, “We really need to try to hear ear-to-ear.” Even though, with all the division that exists in our society today, maybe that’s what we really need. (More on that in a future post.)
Concluding his discussion of the similarities between the human body and the Church – the body of Christ – the apostle Paul writes, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that are unpresentable we treat with special honor…" (1 Corinthians 12:18-23).
We tend to take many parts of our bodies for granted, especially things like knees and feet. But try tweaking your knee while your running, or stubbing your toe while making a nighttime trip to the bathroom. Then we suddenly realize how important those parts are.
In the kingdom of God, the preachers do play an important role. As do the worship leaders, soloists and musicians. Along with the gifted authors of books that touch our hearts and challenge our spirits. For those of us who rarely if ever find ourselves in the spotlight, however, this doesn’t mean we’re not a critical part of the Lord’s eternal plan.
The Scriptures tell us that whoever we are, whatever we do, we matter to God. We’re exactly where He wants us to be – at least for the moment – and if we’re willing to be used by Him, we’re serving exactly as He desires for us to serve.
Years ago I suffered under the misconception that there were two categories of Christians – the “A team,” consisting of pastors, missionaries, evangelists and performers, and the second string, we could term them the bench warmers. I’ve even seen people shrug with resignation, “Well, I’m just a layman.” Today I would respond, “Just a layman?! Do you have any idea what a layperson can do for the kingdom of God? Are you kidding me?”
Looking back, I can see at least 10 “lay people” God has used to make profound impacts in my life for every professional, vocational Christian worker. I could fill this blog with their stories for the next year if I chose to do so.