Many Parts, Yet One Body!(Why Promote Religious Liberty)
1 Corinthians 12:20 “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
Romans 12:4-5 “(4) For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, (5) so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-63 “(12) For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. (13) For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
(14) For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (15) If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. (16) And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. (17) If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? (18) But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (19) If all were a single member, where would the body be? (20) As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
(21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (26) If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
(27) Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
The above Bible texts directly refer to the diversity of the church that contributes to its single mission of accomplishing God’s will on earth. The Corinthian advise also aimed at uniting people who were worried about diversity. There have always been people who are uncomfortable when things are different from what they are or think. Apostle Paul writes to them in the above passage verse 25, telling them not to divide the church because of its diversity. God created diversity even in the church and we are to progress by accommodating it.
The passages above refer to varied spiritual gifts. The gifts are so different and its easy for those with one type of gift to look down upon others with different gifts. It is easy to see others as being less genuine because they don’t do what you do or work as you do. We have many parts as a church yet one body!
The seventh-day Adventist church has one mission, but in order to fulfil that mission, it has varied parts to support the one mission. While we should be preaching the gospel, we have a finance and accounting department to support preaching. While we should be sharing the word of God with the whole world, we have a legal affairs department to deal with inevitable legal issues. While we should be sharing prophecies of the end of time, we also have Information Technology department to facilitate that very assignment and other duties. We even have media centres comprised of experts in Radio, TV and other media aspects. At a non-significant lower level we have security systems to protect properties of the church. These departments are not directly related to the mission of the church but they are equally important. Indeed we are many parts but one body!
We have another department of Public affairs and Religious Liberty. This department has this purpose according to its website http://www.adventistliberty.org/about-parl “The Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists exists for one simple reason. We work to position the Seventh-day Adventist church and its services to a standing of credibility, trust, and relevance in the public realm.“ The department exists to ensure that the SDA church is perceived as credible and not a sect or a money making venture of a few individuals. There are too many incredible groups masquerading as churches, and the church needs to distinguish itself from such groups in all platforms and this is but one of them. In order to win credibility the department carefully works with governments and religious organisations to the extent to which it does not contradict faith. Through conferences the church articulates its mission and purpose for liberty and thus wins credibility from many partners and the public. Credibility of the church facilitates the quick growth and spread of the gospel. Credibility is critical to growth and acceptance of the adventist message to the whole world. To downplay credibility is to be myopic.
The Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department does not have ecumenism as its goal at all. Religious liberty is a theme used to create a platform of credibility. As SDA members we need Religious liberty in order to fulfil our God given mission. It is not wrong therefore for us to promote the liberty that we need. But since liberty is facilitated by governments, we engage with governments. Since liberty is equally desired by other religions, we also join hands with other religions, not in ecumenism, but in a struggle for the freedom that they, like us, need. The joining of hands with other religions in common course and in engaging governments is a function of one part of the body of Christ. That department therefore doesn’t oppose the church or work against it nor aim at an ecumenical agenda, but works in support of Adventism, though differently from the way other parts of the church function. We are many members, yet one body.
The SDA Church also has ADRA (Adventist Relief Agency) that functions as a charity NGO (Non Governmental Organisation). It does not directly engage in preaching or baptising but it functions to help the needy and position the Adventist church as caring after Christ’s model. The church has these many departments but it remains one body. Many parts, yet one body!
It is therefore inconsistent with biblical advice for a preacher of prophecy to condemn the accountants or public affairs department as being non-mission oriented. It is not right for preachers to feel more important than IT experts, security experts and ADRA workers. We are all one body but different parts that serve the same mission. The church doesn’t waste money by having a legal department or media department or Public Affairs department. We must appreciate that the church has many parts and no single person is the many parts, each one is but one part. Let us appreciate that we are many members or parts, yet one body!
The church has people who oppose it from within and from without. They permanently see mistakes in the church. They create websites to fight the church. We need to be careful who we listen to and whose content we forward around. The church has a website. Wisdom requires that we keenly asses issues before quickly drawing conclusions. It is sinful to attack the character of church workers or anyone and cast aspersions on their intentions and circulate it without clarification.
Not all church activities will lead to clarifying that the Sabbath is Saturday and end with calls for baptism. Some are supportive, some contribute indirectly, but many more directly deal with evangelism. All parts of the church are therefore relevant if they ultimately contribute to the mission of the church. We need to understand and appreciate each other, since we are many members or varied parts with varied functions, yet one body or one church with the same mission. Many members, yet one body!(c)firstname.lastname@example.org (do not delete any part of this post, including this. You are free to share these posts, but don’t edit the authorship or content…thank you and be blessed!)