My friend was telling me about her chickens recently, and when the old saying, “Like chickens with their heads cut off” popped into my head I naturally thought of the spiritual implications.
Let me back up. As I was working through the mental gyrations of the whole “pray for the workers” thing, I couldn’t help but be sobered by the thought that one reason we are called to be workers in the first place is because we are Christ’s body. Let me repeat that. We are Christ’s body.
I know you have heard it before: “…Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior.” (Ephesians 5:23b), “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ…” (1 Corinthians 11:3a), “And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church…” (Colossians 1:18a) “And God…appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body…” (Ephesians 1:22-23) This idea is not mentioned once in the Bible and left to be puzzled out by the Greek-reading Bible scholars. It is repeated and repeated to really drill it into our heads. Christ is the head of the body, the church. The church is the body of Christ, who is the head.
“The church”, according to all the Bible verses about “the church” is you and me, and anyone else who is a dedicated follower of Christ. Filled with his Spirit and that. Not necessarily a single building full of people or a denomination or something. Almost every branch denomination or religion of Christianity claims to be “the right one” but it really doesn’t matter that much. Jesus is mostly concerned with our hearts and how to make them more like his so he can love and save more people through us before he comes back in terrifying, conquering glory. ”Church” in many places has become synonymous with a building, instead of being synonymous with a group of people as God intended.
So if I am the church, it is important that I do what Christ would here in this day and age and place because I am literally his body here. He does not move around on the earth anymore, except through me and you, and everyone else who is filled with his Spirit. We are his physical person moving, seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing, loving, speaking.
Put a different way, if I choose not to obey Christ and tell people about him, and love people as he does, then who is going to? Jesus himself is no longer here to do that work. I think this could be one of the things he meant when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). If it’s great when one person goes around loving people and healing them and casting out demons and stuff, wouldn’t it be greater if a million people are doing that? I think most would say one million is better than one. But if I don’t do what Jesus would, who is going to?
Here’s another thing: James (Jesus’ half-brother) said that “Faith without works is dead”(James 2:20b). Why is faith without works (or deeds or actions or toil) dead? Faith is really good- no one contradicts this- but without actual visible action, deeds, or work, there is no benefit in it at all. Faith is pointless without action taking place as a result. The Greek word for “dead” here literally means “a corpse”. Faith without action is cold and lifeless. In the passage above, Jesus reiterates this idea by saying what we will do if we have faith in him. Please let me clarify. This passage of the Book of James is not at all about salvation being earned. Salvation comes only by God’s grace through our faith, as the Bible is clear about – read Romans if you are unsure about this topic. This was written to individuals who were already saved. James wrote to inspire the Christians to action. To sum up, you must work in order for your faith (already in existence) to benefit anyone.
You could think about faith as being like electricity. Electricity is amazing! It powers tons of stuff the world over, doing any number of different things. But electricity is not amazing if the circuit is never completed. It’s lifeless until someone taps into it and does something with it’s power. Faith needs works to empower, or it just sits there, unused. It costs me nothing if I don’t use it, but it also is completely inglorious. Colossians 1:11a says “Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…” I was thinking of this in terms of What happens with Jesus’ might if we aren’t making ourselves available to be filled with it? What is his might used for if it’s not being used here? Does it stay in heaven? It benefits no one if we aren’t using it.
So, to bring this back to the original point, Jesus is the head, and we, his body, need to act. What happens when we act as if Jesus is not the head? We do like any good chicken with it’s head cut off- run around in circles, crash into stuff, and generally be complete and total insensitive idiots. You may want to reread that bit to let it soak in. If you and I choose not to submit to the headship of Christ and let him start making our decisions, we will, whether we like it or not, be just like headless chickens. And please understand that the old saying is no joke. Chickens whose heads have just been cut off really do run around like fast, creepy, wobbly fowl-zombies. Step out of their unpredictable path, because if you don’t, they’ll run into you, and that’s gross. I’m repulsed just writing about it.
Off the chicken subject another question presents itself. What does it look like to be under the headship of Christ? It’s to let him remake our personalities, actions, thoughts. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a) We let Jesus renew our minds. And our hearts, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34b). We repent of the things we were doing that were against God’s good plan for our lives, and we start to do like Jesus did. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes about repentance:
“Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death…
…Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it.”
So, in order to be the best body of Christ we can be, we need to be doing as he would, and be repenting when we don’t do as he would. Either way, we need to be submitting ourselves to Christ each moment and repenting when we do things contrary to his desires for us.
If you sense that God is asking you to do something big and/or scary, talk to him about your fears and reservations. He will not be surprised or ashamed of you. He will help you through those obstacles, but you will need to step out in faith. Trust him, and test him. He knows that sometimes we need clear signs and directions. Ask him for some if you don’t know what to do or how to do it. He will not reprimand you for needing wisdom (see James 1). Just be willing. He gave us free will so that we could choose to love him wholly, and he wants us to change because he loves us, not so he can love us. He wants everyone to know how great he is so that they too can know and love him, but no one will know him if we don’t do our jobs as his physical person here in this world.
You know, this is a huge challenge for me. This whole “body of Christ” thing is so strange and definitely not how I would have imagined it would work. And so darned difficult! But I hope and pray that God will hold my hand and help me form the letters so that someday, with practice, I will be able to do it smoothly and naturally. He is showing me the benefit of overcoming my fears and doing all he asks. I am grateful that I serve such a gentle and caring God that is also so mighty! He moves me slowly, painstakingly, and goes before me so that I can be victorious. A couple of days ago I wrote to God in my journal “You always win, and I love that when I follow You, victory is inevitable…Obviously the overcoming is not the only thing that motivates me to follow You. I think Your grace and Your forgiveness are what keep pulling me back to You. That even when I don’t take the victory You’ve handed me, You still love me.”
So hold his hand. God wants to be victorious through you! And he wants to do even greater things through you than Jesus did in his days tromping around on this earth- and that’s a lot!