No place is better than where Christ died to put you.
Around 1889 when my Great Aunt—Kittie Mae Randolph—was a young girl, she developed disseminated tuberculosis in her leg. A country doctor came to the family’s home, administered chloroform, and amputated her leg right there on the kitchen table.
Eventually, she was fine.
The leg wasn’t. They buried it and it decomposed—the fate of all limbs separated from the body they’re supposed to be a part of.
I see this as a cautionary reminder to Christians who attempt spiritual survival outside the body of Christ.
God took us out of the immoral world system and set us as members into a body alive with the resurrection of Christ.
Yet both deliberate and casual drift continues to occur out of the church, especially among youth. The Body of Christ will survive. Separated members won’t, at least not to the standard of Christian life described in the New Testament.
“I haven’t been to church in years and I’m absolutely fine,” writes one adamant poster. No description follows about what “fine” looks like, though. I wonder if it means the poster still believes in God, prays before meals, and has a stable marriage—“fine,” but hardly the robust spiritual vitality promised to believers.
A consensus exists that church means institutional conformity, the diminishing of personal spirituality, the smothering of the Jesus adventure under the feet of numb religious crowds.
But when Paul talks about the church, he maintains a curious equilibrium between individuality and unity.
First, he emphasizes the distinct members and their particular specialties:
Rom. 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function…”
But before we rush headlong into disconnected religious works and gifts, competition, and personal interests, he adjusts the emphasis:
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ,”
Unity becomes the rallying call. But then he quickly adjusts again to the personal dimension:
And then again of interconnected unity:
“one of another.”
That final parting shot says no believer can claim a unique, direct attachment to Christ the head, while circumventing other members. A thumb isn’t joined to the skull. It is a member of the hand, hand of wrist, wrist of forearm, forearm of upper arm, upper arm of shoulder, shoulder of neck, and then ultimately, attached to the head.
We used to be card-carrying members of a world that crucified Christ. We were complicit in that deed, even if we weren’t present when it happened.
But upon faith in Christ, He removed you from that fellowship, and placed you as a member into His own body. You will no longer stand before God one day as a murderer of His Son, but as a part of His Son.
This is the second half of the gospel in Romans, where the church is not presented as merely a place to go hear the gospel.
It is the place where we can best live it.