My Responsibility To My Family Is To Be Apart Of The Family.
In college I was introduced to a woman named Kitty Genovese. We never actually met, I was introduced to her through an old article from the New York Times. According to the article Kitty Genovese was murdered on March 13, 1964 while 38 people heard her screams and failed to do anything to help her. The article stated that during her attack one person called down from a window, "Let that girl alone!" but the police didn't receive a phone call until 30 minutes after the attack and when they arrived Mrs. Genovese was dead.
The murder of Kitty Genovese left a moral stain on the city of New York. In the aftermath of the incident, local police expressed how easy it would have been to intervene. In the decades that followed, the murder didn't disappear. Journalists, Sociologists, and students in Psychology 101 classes would return to the event over and over again to ask if humanity had changed at all.
In the last few years there has been renewed interest in the story that has resulted in further research and investigation. What we now know is that newspaper coverage of the attack over exaggerated the story. However, this tragedy introduced us to this idea of human passivity. Basically what that means is the more people present in a situation, the less likely it is that any one of them will offer help. In an experiment that has been repeated hundreds of times, we have discovered that when one bystander was present, 85-90% offered help. When two were present, 60-65% offered help. When five were present, then it decreased to 30-25%.
The reason that I mention this Bystander Effect today is that it is prevalent in all types of groups, especially churches. We look around and see that there are so many things that need to be done, people need to be loved, situations need clarity, broken folks and situations that need hope and peace. It’s so easy to forget that as a child of God, you have been called to be actively involved in what He is doing, right here, right now. You have been invited to minister to lost and confused people living in a broken world. But I'm afraid that for many Christians we have given into human passivity. Especially in a group our size, it’s easier to think that someone else will do what needs to be done.
I want remind you today that God is committed to redemption, and He has called us to join Him in that work. Maybe in a crucial moment of life-and-death we would jump into action. But what about the 10,000 little moments of everyday life? It's pretty clear in Scripture that we were created to be part of something bigger than our own lives. But in a search for the BIG things, we forget that God is constantly calling us back into the little moments so that we can be instruments of grace in a fallen world. The New Testament is filled with the call for Christians to:
John 13:34 love one another.
Romans 12:10 be affectionate to one another … giving preference to one another;
1 Corinthians 12:25 care for one another.
Galatians 5:13 serve one another.
Ephesians 4:32 be kind to one another … forgiving one another
1 Thessalonians 4:18 comfort one another
And even in the text that was read for us this morning we see that Paul is calling us to into action. Listen real close to what Paul says: in Christ we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts.
If you fall asleep right now I want you to get this mustard seed. The church is not an organization but an organism. And if we want the church to grow, and be healthy, and be what God desires us to be we must get out of this club type of thinking. We are not the Club of Christ but the living breathing body of Christ.
Do you know the difference between a club and the Body of Christ? Let me try to unwrap that a bit. What do you have to do to be a member of a club? I came up with three things:
Show up to the meetings.
Follow the rules and bylaws.
Pay your dues.
Now if I were to ask you if someone was a member in good standing with this church, how would you decide? What would the measurement you would use to make your decision? I know that for many of us we would gauge someone’s membership by asking the same three questions.
Do they show up to the meetings? They are there on Sunday mornings, they attend occasionally on Wednesday’s for small groups so we are 1 for 1.
Do they follow the rules? I don’t remember reading about a scandal in the paper they were involved in or seen them taken away in handcuffs on the news. That’s 2 for 2.
Do they pay their dues? When I help take up the tithes I saw them put a check in the collection plate, so I guess they are a member in good standing.
I need you to understand that’s not what Paul is talking about. The number one reason we are not having the type of influence in our community we were created for is because we have sold being a member of the body of Christ for mere club membership. When we settle for being a part of a club we give up our responsibility to one another.
I can be a member of the Rotary Club, or the Lions Club, or Band Boosters, or a Soccer club but the big difference is that I do not have a responsibility to be a part of that body, or a part of anyone else in that club.
In the body of Christ we belong to one another. If we really have a desire to be the body of Christ, then we need to get out of this idea of practicing club membership. We need to begin acting as a part of the body or individual members of one another. We need to learn to rely on one another as if our lives depend on it, because they do.
My mom used to tell me that I would lose my head if it weren’t fastened on, has anyone here ever heard that or said that before? I really love my mom, but I don’t believe her. You cannot lose a part of your body and not know it, but you can lose a part of a club and go weeks, months, and even years and not know it. They just drift off and nobody notices. But in a Body it would be noticed immediately because we are all nit together.
Paul does a great job telling us how we are to live in two places in the Bible. The first is found in the text Trafton read this morning found in Romans 12:4-5. The second is in 1 Corinthians 12:12–26.
Paul describes three things about Body membership in this text.
The first, Body membership involves dependency.
Every part of my body needs every other part. I am very attached to my hand. I use it to touch, to write, to pat, to hold, to grasp, I use this finger to type. And it is very useful to me as long as it is attached to my body. If it were to come off it would no longer be useful to me.
That is why it is important that all of our members understand how dependent they are on the family. If we don’t then we will have members who will fall away. If we are truly going to be a Church Body we must come up with a way to connect and build community. People in this church should have at least three people that they can call during times of distress and people with whom we can share their joy. People who pray for you every day, People who you share with every week, People who you spend time with talking about struggles and successes. That’s why we are pushing so hard for our small group ministry. The whole point is to get you into a group of people where you can build trust and dependency.
If you are sitting here today thinking that you don’t need anyone like that then you need to look again at what Paul said, We Are Members Of One Another, so you can’t say I don’t need you.
Let’s be honest here, nobody is good at everything. You need me, and I need you. Nobody has every talent. There are no perfect people who can say to the world, “I don’t need anybody else.” We need each other. We were made to work in teams! That’s why you need a small group and a church family. We’re better together.
When I do Premarital counseling I always spend time talking about how for a marriage to be successful you must learn how to compliment each other’s strengths and to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. When we don’t compensate for each other’s weaknesses, we spend our time criticizing each other. That’s not what marriage is for. Marriage puts two sinners together, so there can be no perfect relationships. But in a marriage, you know the other’s weaknesses, so you can help compensate for them.
When we talk about roles in the marriage we want to figure out what is man’s work and what is woman’s work. For example, who does the cooking? Who pays the bills and manages the budget. I always say the person who does those tasks is the one who does it better! The Bible doesn’t tell us who should do one role over another. Just figure out who does it better, and in doing that, you compensate for each other’s weaknesses. That’s why I always cook and Trista always pays the bills.
Paul did not operate alone. Paul mentions over 100 people by name in his New Testament letters! In Romans 16 alone, there are 26 people listed. And in every letter he mentions people he depended on to do the work God called him to do. Independence is not a Christian trait. We were created to be dependent on God and dependent on the body.
The second thing we notice is that Body membership means equality.
Our text says that On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,
Have you ever seen a Kidney? Unfortunately because of a few stones I discovered about 16 years ago I have seen mine and I don’t think that they are very attractive. I would much rather look at a face, or an arm, or even a foot than to look at a kidney. But what God has deliberately done is make the outward parts depend on the inward parts. I would rather look at a face than a kidney but only if the kidney is doing it’s job. Because if the kidney is not functioning properly, then the face looks yellow, drawn in, and is no longer attractive.
One of the pitfalls that most churches fall into is the idea that the minister, Bible schoolteacher, or worship minister is more important than someone else because you see them standing in front of you all the time. I will tell you that I am important but I am not anymore important than the people who work behind the scenes, just like the face is no more important than the liver or kidneys.
Now if we have a club mentality the person who sits at the head of the table is the one in charge the position of power but we are not in a club, we are in a body. And every part of this family is equal and important. Age, color, wealth, gender, and place of birth are pointless in this body, because Christ came and died for everyone. Or as Paul said, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
The last thing I want to notice is that body membership demands unity.
Paul says that there should be no division in the body, God has deliberately designed the body to love unity and hate discord.
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul says Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” You know why he says it that way, because it takes effort. Or our selfishness will show itself and the body will go to war with itself.
We need to make every effort to keep from gossip.
We need to make every effort to stay away from envy and jealously.
We need to make every effort to not be suspicious.
Most bodies die not from attacks from the outside but from attacks on the inside.
Every year people die in car wrecks, or from gun shots, or bomb explosions. But that’s not our biggest killer. Every year more people die from heart attacks, or cancer, or strokes, attacks from the inside when the body goes to war with itself. The same thing happens in the church when we forget about our responsibility to one another. We loose sight of what it means to have membership in the body, and we miss the blessing.
One of the things that excites me about this family is the opportunity we have to become dependent on one another. To be a church where we are not content only seeing one another once or twice a week, but a place where we long to see each during the week also. We live in a world that desperately needs the community that only the church can offer. In my work with the church I have noticed that people are not opposed to baptism. They are not opposed to giving up drinking, swearing, and carousing. As long as they can find a place where they truly belong, and feel wanted.
So are you truly dependent on God? Do you show that by loving one another, being affectionate to one another, giving preference to one another; caring for one another, serving one another, forgiving one another and comforting one another?
If not then why not? Are you so independent that you are willing to give up on the promises of God just so you can be alone? God is calling you for something better.