There are many people at my church who do not fit neatly into the self-centered vision of church I’d generated in my teens and early twenties. In my grand dreams, church was a place where I should be comfortable, where people should make me feel welcome and accepted and warm inside. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t have any illusions that they’d all be just like me. I wanted them to be different, unique, diverse in the ways that make any community really beautiful. In my internal vision of church, there was room for many types of people: the nurturing, motherly type, the intellectually and artistically stimulating type, the make me laugh until I cry type, even the want to follow in my footsteps type. But of course, I used to think, they’d all be cool and energizing and fun. They’d be different, but not that different, not uncomfortably different.
But the reality is that church is full of people who are uncomfortably different, and I am often unsure of what to do about that. Last week though, I came across a passage that helped. In I Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul describes the church as a body, a unit which contains many individual parts functioning together for a greater purpose. In Christ, we are part of the same body, and I need these people as much as they need me. Paul writes, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you,’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor.” And as much as there is still part of me that wants to say to some people, “I have no need of you,” I am beginning to see that I do in fact have great need of them. I need them as a constant, physical reminder of my pride and of my need, by God’s grace, to change in this area.