How to Avoid Spiritual Leprosy

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:24-25

This is where this whole illustration is going.  The purpose statement (ina clause in the Greek).  That there may be no division in the body.  A divided body is a diseased body.  A healthy body values all its parts and cares for them.  “but that the members might have the same care for one another” (v. 25).

One of the tragic human diseases of history is leprosy.  Jesus regularly came across it; often healed it.  Leprosy is a disease where body parts, particularly the extremities, can no longer be felt.  Hands.  Feet.  Ears.  Nose.  The nerve endings no longer feel that part of the body.  The body is numb to sensation.  It doesn’t feel warmth.  It doesn’t feel cold.  It doesn’t feel pain.  It doesn’t “feel” that part anymore.  That part doesn’t feel like it’s connected.

A healthy body senses every pain every part feels.  So, if you’re hammering a nail and you slam the nail on your finger, the body doesn’t ignore it.  Stupid finger, why were you in the way of the hammer?  The body instantly comes to its aid.

The reflex of a healthy body is to “have the same care for one another” (v. 25).

This is a healthy body and this is a healthy church.  Some member is hurting, in a trial, experiencing pain.  In a leprous church, their pain is not felt and so the thought is, if it doesn’t impact my life then I won’t feel compassion, sympathy, the need to reach out, support,or help.

We are the body of Christ.  We are in this together.  We are all vital to the body.  There isn’t one person here that is unimportant.  There isn’t one gift here that isn’t needed.  The more we realize how much we need each other, the stronger and healthier we will we be.

The life-blood of any church is love.  This is what has to be circulating to all the body parts.  Is it no wonder that just verses from here, Paul famously writes:

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  8 Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love is the blood of the body.  It keeps spiritual nutrients and warmth flowing throughout the body.  This is a healthy church.

Get connected to a local church enough to “feel”

You can know if you are sufficiently connected to the church if you feel the joys, sorrows, and pains of the body.  Sometimes people make the argument that it’s not important to be a part of a local church.  Often those people had some bad experience in the past and so their theology veers away from the importance of the local church.  The safe way is to isolate, that way you don’t have to feel pain.  I wonder how many people in Northwest Indiana would profess Jesus as Savior but have resolved in their heart never to spiritually be connected to a church again.

That is spiritual leprosy.  It might seem nice not to feel pain, but without connection to the body, it damages the body or the body parts.  Are you sufficiently into the body life of this local church?  When needs are shared, are you moved by it?  When joys are shared, do you rejoice in it?

Solution?  Value the church as people bought with the precious blood of Christ.  Imperfect.  Dysfunctional.  Kind of like your body, yet you value it, cloth it, wash it, care for it.  What does valuing the local church look like?  Being committed to it and the people.  Valuing it with indicators like service, time, prayer, ministry, giving.

This is where merely attending the weekend services falls so seriously short of real Christianity.  Real Christianity is lived in community with other Christians with whom we relationally identify and for whom we care (v. 25).  This is spiritual.  Relational.  Body life.  Get connected enough to “feel” the life of the body by serving here and using your gift.  Loving here by connecting with others through ministry or small group or prayer group or just reaching out to others.  Be life-giving here with an attitude of encouragement, love, and kindness.  Remember, as we said last week, the church is God’s re-creating of humanity as he created us to be: faith lived in community.

Get connected enough to be “felt”

Right now, if there was a vote in my body, most of my body parts would prefer my right knee wasn’t a part of the body anymore.  However, my knee is clearly a part of my body because its problem is felt throughout my body.  All the parts in my body are aware of the issue in my knee.

Being a part of the church isn’t just about ministering to others, it is also the joy of being loved and cared for as well.  When your joys are rejoiced in by others.  Your pain is felt by others.  Your needs are met by others.

Are you connected enough to the church for other Christians to know who you are?  Appreciate you?  Care for you?  This requires engagement by all of us.  Let me encourage you to get into the body life, to be “felt” by the church.

A healthy church is plurality in unity.  Many yet one.  Love for God and for one another.

We want Bethel Church to increasingly be that.  This requires messages like this to not only be heard, but applied.  How about you?  I mean, you, the one right now thinking, I’m not important or I’m not that needed.  Gift Inferiority Complex.  You who are thinking, do they realize how gifted I am?  I’m too good for this group.  Gift Superiority Complex.

We need you.  You need us.  Together we are the body of Christ.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2010 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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2 comments

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  1. Steve Dalton

    Steve, although I would agree with your theology, there are some practical limitation. For those that have been attacked by, hurt by, or even denied access by their church your suggestion that they are the leprosy is a bit misguided. The sickness in many of these situation is actually the church, the body of leaders that determined that church would be easier to do if some were “pruned” out for the betterment of the remaining. That the hurts of the pruned were too difficult and distracting for the many.

  2. Alan

    For Steve…
    Perhaps you should take the sage advice of Dr. D. James Kennedy who surmised that “if you find a perfect church, don’t join it you will only ruin it.”
    Grace can only be learned sometimes when the hurt respond with a forgiveness that can only come through God. Grace changes people like no other power of love!

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