The process of whakapapa is fundamental to the identity of Maori people in New Zealand. More detailed than a typical Western genealogy, whakapapa includes not only generations of ancestors but also references to the land and geography, as well as both historical and mythological stories. Whakapapa also refers to the oral recitation of these genealogies, which can stretch back fifty generations or more.
Western notions of the individual tend to inform the way that we view ourselves. We like the myth of the self- made man, the Lone Ranger, the soloist. We rarely think like the Maori, as part of an interconnected family that extends further than any of our memories. For the next few days we’ll examine what Scripture has to say about this part of our identity. Are we spiritual Lone Rangers? Or are we an integral part of a spiritual family?
Our passage today uses the metaphor of a body to answer that question. Just as a physical body is comprised of individual parts—finger, toes, lungs, nerves, etc.—so too is the spiritual body of Christ composed of individual believers who are part of a whole. The apostle Paul pushes the metaphor further: different parts of the body serve different functions, and different members of the body of Christ have different gifts that are intended to serve and bless others (vv. 5–6).
Understanding our identity as part of the body of Christ protects us from two errors. One is thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought (v. 3). We are but a finger or toe, not the whole body. The other error is thinking too little of ourselves. We are a finger or toe that is vital to the health of the rest of the body. Our gifts matter to the Lord!
Apply the Word
One way to increase your awareness of being part of the body of Christ is by recognizing the ways in which the gifts of others have blessed your life. Celebrate them this week—send a note or email to thank those who have blessed you through preaching, hospitality, encouragement, leadership, or generosity. Thank God that you are not alone but are part of a body!