Most have a strong aversion to personal pain, especially when unnecessarily inflicted. We avoid beating up our own bodies. While we might at times be critical of our bodies, we don’t want to bruise ourselves, break our own bones, and cut ourselves up. Those who do are considered to have psychological issues that need treatment. Otherwise, the value of nourishing our bodies is obvious:
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. (Eph 5:28-29)
This is not really about our physical bodies. Instead, let’s think about the body of which all Christians are members: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27).
When Christians fight and beat each other up, they are beating up Christ’s body, bruising and breaking its bones. When we mercilessly criticize, verbally berate, and proverbially throw one another under the bus, then we are acting as the equivalent of the person who breaks and cuts up his own body. It’s a sign of a spiritual sickness and we need grace and forgiveness.
Further, the body of which we are members is not our own personal body to do with what we wish. This is Christ’s body, and only He has the right to tell us how to treat other members of His body (1 Cor 12:12-26; Rom 12:3-8; John 13:34-35).
As Christ loves His own body, having given Himself up for it, the Christian is called upon to show the same care for the body of Christ (Phil 2:1-8). If the world witnesses members of the body of Christ beating up other members, tearing each other apart, and consuming one another (Gal 5:15), they will know that we are not acting as true disciples and may well reject our Lord (John 17:20-21).
This does not mean that the body will never have to deal with pain. At times, we must deal with difficult matters (1 Cor 5; Titus 1:9-14). Physically, we sometimes have to endure pain in order to address problems. We suffer some pains to get into better shape. We may go through surgery and feel the pain after. Yet the reason we do these is to increase our health and make the body stronger. That is different from just beating up our bodies and unnecessarily being harsh and merciless.
In the body of Christ, we will sometimes have to address problems, and this can result in pain. However, and this is crucial, our motivations, manners, and methods for dealing with the problems must be carefully thought through and applied.
What is our motivation for criticizing our own brethren? Do we first check our own hearts before jumping into the fray and publicly jousting with those of the same body of which we are part? Attitudes, good hearts, and honesty are overarching concerns throughout Scripture. Are we seeking to edify and strengthen or tear down and destroy? “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14).
Are we going the extra mile to make sure we are being kind and loving? Consider Paul’s point in Colossians 3:12-15:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Note carefully what verse 15 says: “to which indeed you were called in one body.” Why would we be unkind, impatient, and unforgiving toward a member of the same body of which we are part? We don’t do that with our own bodies. Why would we treat Christ’s body with less care?
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal (2 Cor 10:3-4). That is, we are not to use fleshly methods in our battles—tricking, trapping, and resorting to methods that abuse truth and others in order to win a point. We are not out to put more notches in our belts, and our methods of engagement need to reflect a desire to save and heal. Otherwise, our methods will show a selfishness that is unbecoming to a member of the body of our Lord.
Paul wrote, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26). Is this how we understand and approach discussions and disagreements with our fellow body members?