Monday, May 7, 2012

Working Worthy

One of the most fascinating creatures to me is the Portuguese Man o' War.  Many people mistakenly think of the Man o' War as a jellyfish, but in reality, while bearing superficial resemblance, it is something else all together.

The Man o' War is actually a colony of four distinct types of polyps.  The float/sail is a single polyp, and the original polyp of the colony.  Attached to the sail are collections of three additional polyps; one for food capture, a second for digestion, and a third for reproduction.  This colony of organisms are so tightly integrated together that they are unable to survive apart from the colony.  The only exception to this is the sail polyp from which all the others are formed.

So what does this have to do with walking worthy?  In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul urges us to walk worthy of the calling we have received.  He then proceeds to tell us to be humble, gentle, patient, put up with each other, and to make every effort to live at peace.  Followed by a long list of things for which there is only one: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and God & Father.

Paul has been talking about what Christ has done to heal the division between Jew and Gentile, working to produce a single man; 2:11-22.  And then discussed the revealed mystery of Christ, that we are to be members of one body; 3:2-6.  And he is going to go on from here to challenge us to live as a single body growing and building itself up in love; 4:11-16.  The common theme to all of these passages is that the body of Christ, rather than being like a herd of zebras racing across the savanna as independent creatures who travel together, should seek to mimic the Man o' War, to be a single body.

If I am called to be a part of a body, then how do I walk worthy of that calling?  Some will look at this expression and see in it a call to live such a good life that I become worthy of God's calling.  But given the context I believe he means something else altogether.  I walk worthy of my calling as a body part by functioning as best I can as that part, losing myself for the good of the body.

The body parts for the Man o' War are simple; you're either transportation, food capture, digestion or reproduction.  There is no question about your role, and each member of the colony does its job to the fullest.  The body of Christ is much more complex, with many more parts, and each part with a history of acting independently.  But none-the-less, I believe the Man o' War has a powerful lesson to teach the body of Christ in the unity we are called to achieve.

Walking worthy of being a body part is actually pretty hard for me, it is contrary to my nature.  So how can I pull it off?  By being completely humble, by being patient, by bearing with other body parts in love, by making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:2-3).  All of those actions are concerned with interpersonal relationship within the body, looking to put the interests of the body ahead of my own. The Man o' War does that and prospers as a colony, resulting in the individual members also prospering.  Is it not possible that if we all put the good of the body ahead of our own good that the body would prosper, and that as it did we would also?

Stay tuned for part 2.

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