“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:26
In this season of great, worldwide suffering, the church needs to remember the oneness we have in Christ. Our faith in Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross brings us into a family, into a body that has many members.
In every family, there will be suffering and there will be rejoicing. My family and I cried together when we learned that my mother tested positive for the coronavirus, and we rejoiced together upon her recovery. This is what families do. They share the joys and pains of life together.
So it must be in the family of God as well. When we learn of a brother or sister in Christ who is suffering, we should feel some of their pain; we should “all suffer together”. Likewise, when we learn of a brother or sister who receives honour, we should “all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26).
The temptation is often to do the opposite. We hear of someone’s suffering and may quietly think, “That’s what they deserve” or “I’m glad it’s them and not me.” We hear of someone being honoured and may think, “They don’t deserve that” or “It should have been me and not them.” We need God’s grace and Spirit to help our hearts respond appropriately to the sufferings and celebrations of our brothers and sisters.
We need God’s grace to help our hearts respond appropriately to the sufferings and celebrations of our brothers and sisters
1 Corinthians 12:26 says that when suffering comes to one member, all the members “suffer together”. What does this mean? It means that one member’s pain is the whole church’s pain. It means that we must do our best to enter into the pain of the member who is suffering.
Suppose you learn that a member of the church has become ill or lost a job or lost a loved one or gone through a breakup. How can you feel what they are feeling? Talk to the person who is suffering. It will be almost impossible to feel something for someone that you do not speak to.
In her excellent book What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts), Nancy Guthrie says, “It matters less what you say than that you say something.” She goes on, “When you’re grieving, you know who has acknowledged it in some way and who hasn’t.” Then she gives us the reason why this is so massively important, “Your purpose in saying something is to enter into the hurt with them and let them know they are not alone… Grieving people are not expecting you to make the pain go away. They’re really just hoping that you will be willing to hurt with them. That’s what makes a great friend in the midst of grief!”
When a member of the church is grieving in any way, their pain should (according to 1 Corinthians 12:26) touch all the other members of the church. But this will never happen if members of the church are not actively engaging with other members about what they are going through. How can we feel something for someone we barely know or never reach out to?
“If one member suffers, all suffer together…” Because we are in the same body, if one body part experiences pain, the whole body should feel some of that pain. When you stub your toe, it’s your toe that hurts, but it’s your whole body that responds to the pain.
May God help us make every effort to feel what suffering members of the church are feeling. May God help us to “suffer together”. As we pursue this work through phone calls and cards and coffee and meals together, may God reveal the mercy and comfort of Christ through the body of Christ, for His glory and our good.
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