The following is an excerpt from Retired and Inspired : Making the Most of Our Latter Years by Wendy Billington.
As Christians we are Christ’s body; each of us is precious to him and necessary for his work here on earth. That is why we need to strive towards wholeness so that we can offer our best for him and serve him well as a member of his body.
Teresa of Avila, the 16th-century Carmelite nun, mystic and theologian, wrote these famous words directly referring to and reminding us of Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12:
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.Teresa of Avila
What a vivid analogy this is: the church, the body of Christ, is like and works as a human body. Each of us is a member and of equal worth but with a different part to play, essential to creating a harmonious whole. Paul goes on in his teaching to say to the Corinthians “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Corinthians 12:22).
Whoever we are and whatever gifts we have, we remain indispensable to God and his people. God has called us to love him first; to do this we are to live close to him. God has called us to love our neighbours. The love that God requires is not a passionate physical love nor the love we feel for others: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). This is a love not just of the heart but also of the mind and the will. It keeps on loving even when things aren’t going the way we would like. It is a resolve to put the welfare of others above our own with both actions and words.
The great calling of the church is for it to be family, nurtured through Christ’s love with that same love flowing by the Holy Spirit to its members – the body of Christ. That means that our own personal relationship with God needs to play a key role, but at the same time we must remember that this relationship isn’t just for our own benefit. We have been placed into the body of Christ alongside our fellow Christians, individually and collectively to witness God’s love to the wider world. ‘See how they love one another’ is the mark of a truly spiritual church.