The church in Haiti was not destroyed when the buildings collapsed in the January 12 earthquake. Gersan Valcin, pastor of a church in Port–au–Prince, was visiting one of his church members when a destitute woman approached whose shoes had fallen apart. The church member took off her own shoes—the only pair she owned—and gave them to the woman, who still had many miles to travel.
Here is a picture of the kind of actions and attitudes to which Paul calls the Corinthians in verse 26 of our reading today. As the church of God, we must compassionately identify with those among us who hurt. Moreover, when members of our body are honored, we celebrate together. This isn’t mere sympathy or polite applause. With the kind of a radical unity in the body of Christ that Paul has been urging, we actually feel for one another. As followers of Jesus, we become like Him and take on each other’s pain and celebration in an incarnational way. In Christ, our stories and our lives really matter to others.
We can see what Paul is doing as he answers the questions the Corinthians have posed to him on the subject of spiritual gifts. He’s using his answer as an occasion to retrace some of his themes of the letter. We must remember that the fundamental problem the Corinthian church faced was its disunity. The disunity has expressed itself in multiple ways: believers had taken one another to court, the community had divided over the issue of whether one can eat meat sacrificed to idols, factions developed between sexual immorality and sexual asceticism, and the Lord’s Supper had become another occasion of the rich shaming the poor. Spiritual gifts were another arena where the Corinthians had despised one another.
Paul teaches that every member of the body is indispensable. We cannot do without what might seem to be the weakest of our members. As infinitely complex and beautiful as the human body, the diversity of the church is there by God’s creative design.