“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” 1 Cor.12:18
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. In a school, one teacher specializes in Math and another in English but all serve the student body. In medicine, there are different specialists, one studies the nose, ears and throat, another studies the brain. A dentist is a doctor of the teeth and gums; an ophthalmologist a doctor of the eye. Regardless of their strength and specialty, all doctors seek to heal the human body.
Specialists within the body
So it is with the body of Christ. Each one is a “specialist,” so to speak. Each one has a spiritual gift that assists the proper functioning of the body. Through the development and use of our gift (or gifts if you have more than one) our spiritual area of expertise affects the health and growth of the whole body.
I grew up with comic books. An avid reader, my brother would spend his entire weekly allowance in one trip to the comic book store. The rest of the week he would relay to me, his reluctant-reader little brother, the adventures of Spiderman, Wolverine or the Hulk. His stories thrilled me. When I grew up, I realized that fictional comics reflected a certain non-fictional aspect of human nature, which is: we all have different strengths.
The Fantastic Four
Let the Fantastic Four serve as an example. Able to combust and direct the power of fire, the Human Torch reminds us of those who are able through their passion and “fire” to stir up others and set them aflame for the kingdom of God.
The Invisible Woman represents those quieter saints, whose actions people seldom see, who possess the gifts of help, service or giving.
The Thing illustrates the bolder sort who tear down false teachings, destroy complacent attitudes, and sound the alarm bell, whose prophetic words, courageous evangelism or powerful rebukes correct and call us to follow Christ.
Then there are the Mister Fantastic’s among us, the geniuses who guide us with their vision, wisdom and insight, whose maturity has stretched them to understand many aspects of church and family life. Such men and women serve as mentors to us. Praise God for the ministry of each one and the strength they give to the body of Christ.
Although each one has his or her God-given strength, we must not forget that each one has his or her God-given weakness as well. Some weaknesses are from the devil, that’s true, but some weaknesses are from our loving heavenly Father, sent down from above to humble and harmonize us, producing a dependent, and interdependent, body.
God meant no man to be an island. We are social beings and we need each other. If God’s intention were to make all of us self-sufficient, where would be the need to value one another’s gift and contribution? In this way, the strength of weakness is that our weaknesses bind us together, causing us to rely on one another, compelling us to recognize, value and need one another’s strengths.
A union from two
Take a typical marriage for an example. A marriage is the union of two people into one coherent collaborative unit. The gifts and strengths each spouse brings to the marriage combine to form a greater amount of gift. The result is greater diversity, and with greater diversity comes greater strength (Eccl.4:9-11). The sum ends up being greater than its parts.
Marriage helps our weaknesses as well. One spouse struggles with being on time, another spouse is punctual. One spouse is bad at managing money, another maintains a balanced budget. One wrestles with anger, another is free from it. What happens when these two individuals harmonize as one? The result is that one spouse’s strength complements and compensates the other’s weakness – or better yet, one spouse’s strength can even correct the other’s weakness. This is true in church life as well.
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz helps us conceptualize our weaknesses and see how together we are stronger. Like the Tin Man, some of us suffer from a lack of heart – we don’t love people enough, we are too self-absorbed or we are too unloving in our dealings with others. We need our Wizard of Oz, the Lord Jesus Christ, to give us heart.
The Scarecrows among us lack discipline of the mind and need support organizing themselves, understanding and remembering the Word, or maintaining balance and structure in their lives. Some of us cry out, “If I only had a brain!” whereas others, who wrestle with issues of mental health, may literally cry, “If I only had a healthy brain.”
Lastly, there are cowardly lions among us. Many of us wrestle with fear and are often pinned to the mat by it. Though we ought to be lions through our faith in Christ, often times we are more like mice. The idea of sharing our faith with a stranger paralyzes us. The thought of speaking face to face with another brother or sister in order to resolve a conflict cowers us. And the idea of speaking publicly in front of a crowd, a prospect more terrible than death to some people, causes us to tuck our tail between our legs and whimper.
The support of weakness
We all need Christ. We are born weak and life has wounded us in many ways. But Christ has given us to one another to support each other in our weaknesses. Praise God, He has not “given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim.1:7). Thank God, not all of us are stricken with cowardliness in the same way at the same time.
Thank God, not all of us possess a tin heart. There are some among us, all glory to God, who have through Christ recovered a soundness of mind and are able to help others do the same.
But until we all attain unto maturity, no longer tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine like unanchored boats on a windy sea (Eph.4:13,14), let us lean on one another’s strengths – for we that are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not just please ourselves (Rom.15:1).