Steve Willsey, Associate Pastor, Spencerville SDA Church, Silver Spring, Maryland

Summary: As Christians we are stewards of one another other. The author describes how we need one another for our spiritual survival!

Staying on tune. When I attended boarding school as a teenager, the really popular students belonged to music organizations. Unhappily, I had no musical ability. But I knew that I must somehow rise to the occasion. Band was too difficult; so I chose to join the choir.

Miss Chamberlain, our choir director, was not easily swayed by my desire to boost my social status. She was rightfully concerned about the quality of her choir’s performances. So this was the deal: I could join, but I must take voice lessons. That was all right, but I did not bargain for the solo performances I had to give in public.

I was scared to death at my first solo—which made matters much worse. I couldn’t carry a tune! You would think my teacher would take pity on me, but she was a determined woman. I remember when I stood before a thousand plus people at a statewide youth rally and tried to sing. With my first note, my family ducked low in their seats, hoping not to be noticed.

But singing in the choral group was not so disastrous. With others’ support, I could maintain my notes fairly well. And I can sing with this same help from the congregation today. Do you know that the support I feel when singing with the congregation is what the church is all about? I can’t sing alone. But with all of you, it is a magical moment, and I’m suddenly transformed.

Spiritual survival. The Apostle Paul often wrote to the churches describing this very phenomenon—the effect we have on one another. He admonished members to support one another as they built up the church. In Greek, the words ?one another? represented a mutual process that was to take place among the believers. Paul uses the term forty times. And this phrase properly identifies the point I want to make—we are all very dependent on one another for spiritual survival.

1 Corinthians 12 is one of several passages that refers to this phrase. There is also Colossians 3:12, where Paul calls the members of that congregation ?God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,? and then uses the phrase ?one another? in the next verse.

It is almost scandalous to think that God considers the church I know to be His ?chosen people, holy and dearly loved;? but that lofty description is consistent with other inspired spokesmen. Peter says we are ?a chosen people, a royal priesthood ? belonging to God? (1P 2:9). And John says, ?How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God? (1J 3:3).

God knows exactly who we are; and in spite of it, we are His ?beloved.? He sees us as blood-bought children, covered in the holiness of His Son. The Church of Christ is a very special community. Ellen White says the church ?is the only object on earth on which the Lord bestows His supreme regard? (TM, p. 15). And the most conspicuous bestowal of all is God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.

The apostles waited in Jerusalem till the Spirit empowered them to minister. Paul says that the Spirit’s work is to distribute special gifts to believers for the building up of the ?body? (1 Cor 12).

Because He loves us. When I think of what God has to work with, I recall His experience with Israel. Why did He choose a nation of slaves to represent Him among the nations of antiquity? Why did He tolerate their fickleness? Moses said, ?The Lord did not choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples.? But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers?.? (Dt 7:7). And for us today, it is because of His mercy that we have been chosen. That is why we are dearly loved.

In the church at Corinth the worship was being disrupted by members who insisted on using the more dramatic gifts of the Spirit—prophecy and speaking in tongues—even when these gifts did not contribute to the worship service. Inspired by the Spirit, Paul employed the metaphor of the human body to describe the proper function of each gifted member of the church. ?The body is a unit,? he writes. ?Though it is made up of many parts ? they form one body? (1Cor 12:12). The church is just like this. For all kinds of people from many different cultures have been baptized by the Spirit into the ?one body.?

Chaos erupted in Corinth when these groups came together to worship. And needing to draw them together, Paul demonstrated that their many differences were like various parts of the body—parts that don’t look alike or have the same function, but that are interrelated and dependent on one another. Each member is a part of Christ’s body, unique, yet contributing to the success of the whole.

This was Jesus’ burden as He said: I pray ?that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me.?

The place of healing. While traveling in Europe a while back, I spent the Sabbath with friends in old Yugoslavia. It was just a small city I visited, but I was thrilled to find a beautiful little Adventist church with a warm and faithful congregation. Though we had difficulty communicating, we knew we belonged to each other.

Paul says: ?Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others? (Rm 12: 4-5, NASB). This is the pivotal point of this sermon. ?You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it? (1 Cor 12:27). We need one another for spiritual survival.

The Holy Spirit nurtures us as we walk with Christ, but it is rare that the process is accomplished apart from interaction with other members of the body. The church is not only a place of worship and outreach, but a center for personal growth and healing. In the book by Larry Crabb, Connecting: A Radical New Vision, Crabb proposes that the church, rather than the therapist’s couch, is the most logical setting for most emotional healing to occur. He says we may depend on the Spirit to ?search our hearts for hidden matters that interfere with trust. But the absolute center of what he does to help us change is to reveal himself to us, to give us a taste of what he is really like, and to pour his life into us? (p. 9).

Crabb adds another sentence that may be controversial, at least among professionals. A critical element in the Spirit’s process of revealing Himself, knowing what He is really like and then pouring His life into us, ?is to place us in a community of people who are enough like him to give us that taste firsthand.? In other words, a powerful experience sufficient for healing comes through connecting with other members of the Christian family. ?It’s time for the church to enter the real battle going on in our souls,? says Crabb (p. 150). It is time for us to take seriously the ?one another? role of the church. It is the caring ministry of each church member that can make the greatest impression on our community.

Paul described what this spiritual ministry is all about. ?As God’s chosen people ? clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity? (Col 3:12-14). Christianity is best shared with others when they see Christ revealed in the lives of His disciples. And that is also how healing takes place: Jesus pours His own life into those who are hurting through the loving ministry of fellow travelers.

One small gesture. As Scott walked home from school, he saw a group of boys attacking Kyle. Kyle, they taunted, was a nerd or misfit. They knocked Kyle’s large stack of books from his arms and tripped him. He landed in the dirt, glasses flying! Scott jogged over, helped Kyle pick up his things, and invited him home. Over the next few years, they became good friends.

When the two young men went to separate colleges, they lost touch with each other. But soon after, Kyle wrote to Scott and told him the unfinished story of the day they met. He told Scott that he had cleaned out his locker so that his mother wouldn’t have to do it later. He was taking all of his belongings home, because he had planned to commit suicide. ?Thankfully,? he said, ?when you invited me home, you saved me from taking my life.?

Upon relating this story, Scott said, ?Never, until that moment, did I realize the power of my actions—how one small gesture can change a person’s life for better or for worse.?

And then the Apostle Paul said, ?And now I will show you the most excellent way?.? (1 Cor 13:1). Caring ministry to one another is formed in a heart of love, planted there and nourished by Jesus Himself. People said of early Christians, ?How they love one another!?

We need more ?one anothering.? I need it. You need it. One anothering can help liberate you from the wounds of your past. It can encourage us in our spiritual journey as Christ expresses His own love through you to me. One anothering in our congregation can effectively demonstrate to our community the gospel we preach. It is ?the more excellent way,? for it comes directly to us from the heart of God.