The Bible says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14a) I usually take that fact for granted until something goes wrong in my body.
My mother used to say. “I don’t mind getting old, except the parts wear out.” I’m beginning to understand what she meant. As I write this, I am preparing to have arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder. After a series of tests, x-rays and an MRI scan, they determined that I have torn the rotator cuff in my shoulder almost all the way through. People ask me, “How did you do that?” I wish I could point to some manly injury, but the truth is I don’t know how I did it. I guess the parts just wore out.
I didn’t even know what a rotator cuff was until I started having shoulder pain. Among other things, it hurt to lift my arm. For a while I tried to follow the advice of the doctor on the old Hee Haw show: “If it hurts when you do that, don’t do that!” But the pain kept getting worse. So I started reading about the shoulder.
The shoulder is the most amazing and versatile joint in the body. It can rotate almost 360 degrees (or at least it starts out that way), and is so constructed as to enable you to carry heavy loads in many different ways, with all the weight coming through the shoulder. The rotator cuff is a series of four tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, each connected to a different muscle that moves the shoulder in different directions. The rotator cuff serves to keep the shoulder joint in place. All in all, the shoulder is an amazing feat of design and engineering, a testament to the wisdom and glory of our Creator. And you have two of them, right there on either side of your head. You are surrounded by amazing and didn’t even know it.
In relation to the rest of the body, the rotator cuff isn’t very big. But it is surprising to me how much an injury there can affect the rest of my body. The longer it went on, the more the pain started to radiate: down my arm, up into my neck, and even across my chest and back somewhat. And it began to affect almost everything I did: walking, driving, reaching for things, carrying things, even how I sat at my desk or lay in bed. It would wake me in the night and distract me during the day. It really has had an impact on almost all the rest of my body.
The Apostle Paul said that Christ is the Head of the church, and all believers in Christ are members of His body (Ephesians 1:22-23). He said, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27). What is true of the body of Christ as a whole (all believers in Christ everywhere) is also true of each local church in miniature. Paul said, “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20)
In every church, there are people who are up front and readily visible: the pastor, the musicians and singers, some of the deacons, and various others from time to time. It’s easy to assume that the work of the church depends just on those people that everybody sees every week.
And in every church there are those who labor faithfully behind the scenes, unseen by most, doing what they do out of the spotlight and without any fanfare. And it’s easy to assume that what they do matters less, or isn’t as important as what the more visible people do.
And that couldn’t be more wrong. Paul said, “On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” (I Corinthians 12:22).
I was preparing to leave once to go somewhere, standing at the door of our church secretary’s office putting on my coat. I was talking to her, trying to make sure I wasn’t forgetting something important. I looked at her and she was grimacing. I told her, “When I put on my coat, it’s not necessary for you to grimace, too. I’m the only one that needs to grimace.” She said, “It just looks like it hurts!” I said, “That’s because it does.” So I stepped out of sight so she couldn’t see me put my coat on the rest of the way. My rotator cuff affects my face, even when I try not to let it.
And what you do is important to the life of the whole church, whether you believe it or not. It is most often the people who do things behind the scenes who are the ones that keep the church functioning smoothly.
Or maybe it’s what you don’t do that affects the life of the church. Each believer in Christ has been given a gift or gifts to use for the building up of the Body of Christ. Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit…To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” If you aren’t using you gifts in some way to bless your brothers and sisters in the church, you are missing out on fulfillment in your Christian life and depriving others of the benefit of your gifts. And let me say this gently but firmly: I believe if you are withholding your gifts from the church to which you belong, you are sinning against God.
Believe me, I can’t wait to get my rotator cuff repaired and healed up, for the sake of my entire body and almost everything I try to do. One small hidden part can make all the difference in feeling good and functioning properly, or being in pain and hurting every time you try to do something.
It’s the same way with the church: one member not using their gifts can affect the rest of the church. It might be something as simple as not singing during the congregational songs. Christian, you really have no idea how much what you do or don’t do affects others. You’re important. We need you. Your brothers and sisters need you.
Even if you’re a rotator cuff that nobody sees.
Soli Deo Gloria!