Paul further defines the one body:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret” (1 Cor 12:27-30)?
We are all unique members of the one body. And Paul suggests, to use a slightly more modern metaphor, that we should operate with the intricacy of a powerful locomotive delivering boxcars loaded with many different products.
What are those products?
“But earnest desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:30).
Paul says that each member of the one body should seek to develop the highest quality products to deliver to the world, perhaps because they bring the greatest profit if we are in business together. And now Paul reveals what “business” we should be in:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all powers, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13:1-3).
Without love of all members of the one body, we make lots of noise, act like a prophet, and gain nothing.
So what is love, really?
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).
Love in the one body is patience, kindness, full of truth; bearing, believing, hoping, enduring, and never-ending. Love aspires to model after the never-ending love of God.
“As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:8b-12).
For the one body to flourish, we must grow up and give up childish ways. Who is it we see in the mirror dimly? If we are looking in the mirror with only moonlight shining outside, we see our own profile in ghostly lack of color and dimension. But if we suddenly see ourselves in full color, a new light has appeared behind us.
I like to think that we see the “light of life”, that is Jesus himself, standing with us at the mirror. Which he does constantly when we give up childish disunity and ignite a torch of perfect unity with him:
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
This is agape love, grown-up love, for all members of the one body.
May God bless and continue to teach us all!