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"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 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; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." - 1 Corinthians 12.24-26
The situation in Haiti gives the Christian church in America a test. Do we suffer, seeing the Haitians suffer? Paul's point is not that our "thoughts and prayers" are to be with those who suffer, but that unity through Christ means their suffering involntarily becomes our own. It should take no reminder. After all, if I injure my hand, my reflexes automatically cause me to draw it to my body and cradle it closely. I may shout or cry in pain. My knees may even buckle a bit. If these steps did not happen automatically, if they took deliberation and calculation, I would immediately think that there was some kind of disorder in my body.
Haiti is a test to see if Christ's body has become leperous, unfeeling, even dead.
It occurs to me that this test will reveal where we have drawn the boundary lines marking who should and should not receive our concern. (What a wonderful position to be in, to sit back and choose who is worthy enough to have me as their benefactor!) If we are one body with no divisions--no parts cut off from the rest--then we will display that equal concern Paul speaks of. If that immediate, involuntary concern is not emerging corporately and individually, then it means we have been cut off from our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Jesus said that what we do to the least of these, we do to him. In that case, being cut off from the least of these seems more ominous. If we are cut off from each other, only one remains attached to the head. Who do you think it will be?
Jesus also said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7.12). Jesus is speaking in this passage specifically about what we ask for and expect to receive from God, saying in effect that our treatment of others ought to be guided by how we desire God to respond to us when we ask from him. Do I believe in the power of generosity? If I believe that God is generous, I will have no problem being generous. Or, put another way, my generosity declares what I believe about God. If cannot be generous, it is because I do not believe that God has been generous with me. Misers serve a miserly god, and are formed into his image.
This same principle is at work in forgiveness. By participating in forgiveness, I express my faith in the power of forgiveness, as Jesus says, "If you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6.14). By withholding forgiveness, I declare that I do not believe in its power, and no one who disbelieves in the power of forgiveness has or will taste it.
So back to the question at hand, "Am I Willing to Suffer?" Stephanie just came home and asked if I am ready to adopt a child from Haiti. She told me yesterday she wanted to do something, and while I don't know that adoption is the path to go, I also don't know that it is not. I am thankful to have someone in my life who is showing me what that involuntary, sympathetic reflex of grace and generosity looks like in Christ's body.
I know this: We are not innocent when we allow our institutions to do our sinning for us, and we are not virtuous when we let them do our good works in our name. Am I willing? Am I able? Do I suffer? Do I share the hurt? Do I bear the cost?
O Lord, heal these leperous limbs, lest they be cut off and cast away from you!