Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Two Atrocities: A Head with Multiple Bodies; or, A Body with Multiple Heads

Maybe “atrocity” is too strong a word. But “anomaly” is too weak. And “curiosity” is just sick. And we aren’t talking about something that you might have seen in the old, circus “freak” shows. No, we are talking about seems to happen often in the evangelical church.

A Head with Multiple Bodies

Christ only has one body. We just seem a little confused about who it is. So there are many (and by many, I mean a whole lot) who claim to be that body, and who are pretty sure of all the ones who are not. I’m pretty sure that Christ knows who makes up His body. But in the meantime, in our separations and isolations, we are left either to envision a Head with only our little remnant, which would be a really small, puny body; or to envision an atrocity: Christ with many bodies.

Ephesians 2:14 says “He is our peace.” Verse 15 says that He has made “the both one.” There are not two peoples of God. There is one. There are not two ways to God. It is Jesus. And if we take this theme and run with it, we can safely say that Christ our Head does not have multiple bodies.

If He did, can you imagine what would happen? Several would claim to have direction from their Head, even though each body is clearly not going in the same direction. And it seems, then, as though the Head would almost be forced to favor one body over the others. “Will the real body please stand up?” And the others are left, what, just to dangle?

If Christ our Head had many bodies, then language such as “beloved” (for instance, in Psalm 127:2; Ephesians 5:1) becomes trite. It would be like the young chaser buying Valentine cards for all his girls that say, “I love you will all of my heart.” A shepherd with multiple flocks must necessarily be absent at times. A Good Shepherd may have many, many sheep. But He has only one flock.

A Body with Multiple Heads

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24 NAS95S). In other words, it’s just not going to work. The masters are going to fight. The servant is going to take sides.

But the Body on earth tends to conduct itself as though the Head in heaven is far away (see Ephesians 1:20-23 for the concept of the “Head in heaven”). Therefore, it must adopt other direction for its practical and daily existence. Maybe it is worldly wisdom. Maybe it is church tradition. But the church in the world often replaces heavenly direction with earthly direction, and, in essence, seeks to operate with multiple heads.

But our Head is not far away. Heaven has invaded earth in the coming of the Son, and He has conquered the distance and the divide so that we can have constant fellowship and direction from Him, through His Spirit and Word. So when we opt for substitute headship, we operate according to the flesh, not according to faith. And that produces an atrocity.

We need less meetings and more prayer. We need less talking and more paying attention. We need to be a little less like the adolescent, who, when spoken to, cannot possibly hear, because he is entombed in headphones and distraction. He is, for all practical purposes, dead to the Head.

A local body of believers (see Ephesians 4:15-16 for the Head in relation to individuals in local community) has many heads when they are all going a dozen directions, fed with many varieties of spiritual diet. Let’s say one group is more passionate about the election (or, non-election) of some politician than they have ever been about King Jesus. And let’s say another group is really, really focused on the family. And let’s say another group is all about feeding the hungry. And another comes to church out of loyalty, but they feel much more fed when they listen to Joel Osteen. Wouldn’t this be a body with multiple heads?

Paul one more time uses the “Head” theme in Ephesians 5, when he applies the beauty of the new creation and spiritual living to husbands and wives. They are to live in love and submission with/to one another, even as the local body is to practice love and submission in relation to one another, under the banner of the Love of Christ for His church and submission to Christ has her Lord.

Every time I substitute willfullness and selfishness for submission and love, I am guilty of sin: of separating from Christ, my Head, to follow the impulse of some other Authority. This should never be considered normal. It is an atrocity.

1 comment:

Ben said...

It has been a long time since I've been able to read blogspot, but I'm glad I did. Thank you for writing this thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I know a big problem for myself is that I know we (the church) are acting like we have many bodies, but I convince myself that my part of the "body" is the only true one. how arrogant...but I convince myself again and again. Now, I'm certainly not becoming a pluralist, I'm talking the body within the Church, as you also were, just to be clear :-)