A broken body

A broken body

Apr 10
A broken body

Jesus lifts the thin wafer of bread in front of him, holding it up for the other twelve men to see.  The bread is flat and hard, resembling more of a cracker than bread.  “This is my body…” He begins.  He pauses briefly, looking at the other men in the room.  Then He snaps the bread in two with a loud crack.  Some of the men jump at the loud noise and the sudden violence.  “…broken for you,” finishes Jesus.  “Take it and eat.  As often as you do this, remember me.”

That is how I picture what is often referred to as “The Last Supper” or “The Lord’s Supper.”  Jesus and his twelve closest followers had gathered to celebrate the Passover.  The Passover meal has a long tradition, with some specific instructions as to what to eat.  At the point that Jesus ate this meal with His disciples, the Jewish people had been celebrating Passover for hundreds of years, commemorating when God led them out of Egypt, setting them free from slavery.

God sent Moses to Pharaoh, telling him to set the people of Israel free.  Naturally, Pharaoh refused.  The people of Israel were valuable slaves and were critical to the many constructions projects in Egypt.  Besides, he was Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and he answered to no one.  God sent many punishments upon Egypt, but the last one was the worst.  God sent an angel to kill the first born child of every family.  This would happen to even God’s chosen people unless they took a lamb without blemish and spread its blood over and around their door.  The angel would see the blood of the lamb and “pass over” the home without killing anyone.  This was the origin of Passover.

When Jesus celebrates Passover with the apostles, He draws a correlation between Himself the perfect lamb slaughtered at the first Passover.  The angel of death passed over the homes of those families that were covered by the blood of the lamb, sparing them from the wrath of God.  Jesus was using a symbol with which His followers were very familiar.  He was telling them that He was about to become a sacrifice for the life of the world.

Later, the Apostle Paul would write several letters in which he compares the Church to the body of Christ.  In fact, Paul even equates the two.  Here are a few passages that I believe illustrate that we are the body of Christ on earth:

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.”  1 Corinthians 10:16-17

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Romans 12:4-5

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”  1 Corinthians 12:12

We are supposed to be the body of Christ on Earth.  We are supposed to be a living, breathing embodiment of Jesus.

That should be positively terrifying.

Jesus didn’t live the American Dream.  He didn’t get married.  He didn’t have 2.5 kids, a house, and a car.  Pretty much the opposite was true.  Worse, He says that He was broken for our sake.

If we, then, are the body of Christ, shouldn’t we expect to also be broken for the life of the world?

We have a word for broken bodies.  When a body gets torn apart, we say it was “dismembered.”  Jesus compared His body to bread, broke it, and then gave it to His disciples to eat.  They were metaphorically consuming Him.  He was their bread — that which gave them life and sustained them.  Jesus said that when we do this, we “remember” Him.

What if He meant that we “re-member” Him?  That His body is being knit back together?  If we are the body of Christ, is the body “dismembered” when we are apart?  Is His body “broken” like the bread that He snapped in two?

Is He using us to “feed” the world, as His body?

What if Jesus intended for the rest of the world to be fed by the Church?  To be fed off of His “body” just like He said during the Passover meal He shared with his disciples?  “Take and eat.  The church is My body, broken for you.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think much of the world would describe us that way.  They might see us as “broken” but not in the way that we need to be broken.  Instead, the relationship that Christians take with the world typically manifests in one of three ways:  fortification, domination, or assimilation.

The “fortification” response is when Christians try to wall themselves off from the rest of the world.  In their isolation from the culture they are incapable of influencing the culture.  They lose their ability to relate to the world, to be in the world but not of it.  Those who favor fortification are content with those who are already “saved.”  I once heard a Christian say, “If that’s what it is going to take to reach the lost, then we don’t need ‘em.”  The ark is full.  There’s no room at the inn.  The rest of you are on your own.  To Hell with you.

The “domination” response is when Christians try to use laws or other methods to coerce the culture into reflecting their own values.  Currently, there is a strong domination movement in 21st century America.  No longer satisfied with converting the hearts of minds of the world, some Christians have taken to forcing others to “behave” properly, even if those people do not believe what Christians believe.  I recently heard a Christian defend discrimination against the LGBT community by contrasting it with radical Islamists who kill gays.  This Christian was basically saying, “Those guys would kill you, so you should be grateful that we aren’t taking it to that extreme.”  That doesn’t bring about the kind of heart that will “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

At the other extreme is what the “domination” folks are most afraid of:  “assimilation.”  The assimilation response treats the culture as superior to the will of God.  Rather than call out sin, assimilators accept it.  This is done under the premise of an all-loving God, whose umbrella of forgiveness welcomes all lifestyles and choices (except, paradoxically, those people who are judgmental).  For comparison, it would be like me telling my wife, “You are the most important person in the world to me.  I want to spend my life with you.  Now I’d like to introduce you to Emma, my other wife.”  This approach essentially tries to recreate God into the image of ourselves, removing Him from His rightful place as GOD.

However, there is a fourth way that we can relate to the world.  We can choose “incarnation.”  The “incarnation” response says that my life doesn’t belong to me, but instead belongs to the One who purchased it.  It makes me think of the film “Saving Private Ryan” – he tried to live his life in a way that was worthy of the sacrifices that were made to keep him alive.  Christians should strive to be walking embodiments of the life of Jesus.  Real-life, living, breathing Jesus impersonators for whom it is more than just an act or a performance.

Many of us have become “incarnations” — just of all the wrong things.  There are people who see Christians as the incarnation of hate, greed, selfishness, closed-mindedness, and a host of other things.  I know that I have personally been a negative incarnation in the lives of some people.  To my shame, I can easily think of people who have no reason to think a single positive thing about me.  I pray that God redeems my mistakes, that He heals those lives that I have damaged, that He leads them to a better place so that even my awfulness is part of His bigger Story – for His glory, not mine.

We are not here only to withdraw from the world and keep ourselves pure.  We are not here to beat the world into submission so that it acts like Christ but does not Know Him.  We are not here to decide who God does or does not want a relationship with.  We are not here to decide what is or is not okay.

We are here to be the body of Jesus.  A body that is broken for the life of the world.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”  Romans 12:1

1 comment

  1. ...

    Matthew 5:23-24

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *