Many Parts, One Body

Many Parts, One Body

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). 

We all live with limits: of our strength, energy and abilities unique to each individual. Yet in our individual limits we are part of a larger whole, a society, a community, the body of Christ. As people of this world, we tend to value the strongest, fittest, the most able—an image of how each of us would most like to be, wishing away our limits. Yet even God gave himself limits. He gave his people free will instead of imposing his perfect will on us. As Christ, he took on a human body needing food, water, rest—and in that body he experienced temptation, grief, joy, pleasure, pain and death. Even in his resurrected state he retained the wounds of his crucifixion, using them to identify himself to his disciples.

Why then do we try to hide or deny our own limits and impairments? Christ’s human state did not prevent him from being his full self. His wounds did not keep him from resurrection of body and spirit. It is through those very limits and wounds that we can connect to the divine spirit alive in each of us. God knows and loves us for exactly who we are: each one a unique part of the whole body of Christ with a different face, a different body, different abilities, different experiences. Yet only together are we the full expression of God.

Some of us run fast enough to win medals; some do not walk. Some create beautiful music with their voices; some do not speak. Some earn accolades; some live unnoticed. Yet God has decreed that “those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” for he designed us to live together as one collective expression of his character and image. Yet when we humans design our societies, we forget that some travel by wheelchair, some speak without hearing, some read with their fingers, some are easily distressed, overwhelmed or fatigued. We do not consider the many ways people exist in the world, choosing to ignore the limitations of others or ourselves that make us uncomfortable, that we think make us weak.

If we all have limits, even as God gave himself limits, those limits do not diminish us. We are not damaged, broken or less than for having a learning disability, ADHD, chronic fatigue, diabetes, anxiety, differently shaped or missing limbs, depression, autism. We are just different manifestations of God’s diverse and incomprehensible image. We are imago dei, the body of Christ.

Disabilities are created by our society, by our lack of understanding of the diversity of bodies, minds and spirits. Disabilities are imposed on us by those who do not design elevators and ramps, publish books that can be read through sound or dots on the page, create alternative means of testing and assessment or exhibit more patience with an overwhelmed psyche. Disabilities are caused by humans who vainly think there is a right or normal way for people to exist in this world.

Let us remember that as the body of Christ, we are interdependent upon one another for support. That while we each have different functions, we should have equal concern for one another and everyone’s, unique limits. If the wheelchair user is excluded from the church basement, the autistic person is denied participation in class, the person with a reading disability cannot finish a test, the anxious person fails a class for lack of attendance and participation points, the person with gluten intolerance cannot share a meal or the deaf person cannot read captions to a video, then we should recognize the entire body of Christ suffers the ways we have not included our brothers and sisters. We need to celebrate, enjoy, encourage and, most of all, plan ways to include the forms God has given our bodies, brains and spirits, for we are his people, the reflection of who he is. Let us rejoice and be glad in who God made us all to be, including our limits.

Connections
Melinda Gunning

Melinda Gunning

Director of Disability Access and Education