The third alternative is known medically as paralysis. If our heart malfunctions or ceases to function we have a heart attack. The result is either severe restriction and retardation, or death.
If any member of our body abandons its proper function, our body becomes diseased, whether that member is a vital organ or a simple limb. It should be immediately obvious to us that a diseased or handicapped body is incomplete and cannot grow to completeness until the proper function of the crippled part is restored. This is true first because of the immediate lack of that member’s function and second, because the whole body must divert it energy and resources away from growth: the remaining members must make up for the lack of the crippled member. When two legs abandon their proper function for whatever reason, the arms are forced to compromise their proper function to operate a wheelchair or manipulate crutches.
In our physical body, every member has either a positive or a negative effect on the whole body; it cannot have a neutral effect. This applies with equal force to the body of Christ. For a member to malfunction, or be paralyzed, harms the Church. It has a distinctly negative effect! The only way to have a positive effect on the body of Christ, is for each member to find its proper place and function in it.
2 Corinthians 14 exhorts that all we do should be to build up the body of Christ. We are to do everything we can to cause it to grow! All of Paul’s energy went toward this goal (Col. 1:28, 29). That is where all of our energy should go (Eph. 4:16). Whenever we are not functioning properly, we defeat the very purpose for which God has called us: we hinder Christ’s body from growing into the fullness of the stature of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30).
IMPORTANCE OR PROMINENCE?
Every one of us is an important part of the body of Christ, and our function is absolutely necessary to the health, well-being and completeness of the Church. But importance is not the same as prominence. The nose is a prominent part of our body; the liver isn’t. But who can deny the vital importance of the liver?
Satan continually incites our fleshly ambition, our carnal desire for prominence or preeminence. This fleshly ambition is a diabolical perversion of an honest and healthy desire for a feeling of importance and usefulness to others. This God ordained desire can be satisfied only as we function faithfully as the member God has called us to be.
We can evaluate our feelings of importance using the standards of love, faith, and growth. If our dominant aim is the advancement and growth of the whole Church, and its individual members, we are serving in love. We can also ask, “Is my activity motivated by a desire to be known, to have power over people (i.e. “lord it over them”), to advance my own personal position?” To the degree that it is, we are not motivated by love and the desire to realize our rightful place of importance, but rather by a perverse desire for preeminence.