by Tom Beutel
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:17, ESV)
The man standing to the side, holding the coats of those who were stoning the heretic, Stephen, did not seem to be one with a sense of humor. Saul, who became Paul the Apostle, was a serious, passionate, dedicated Jew. From the scriptures, it is not apparent that his transformation to a follower of Christ involved any real change in his basic personality. He was still serious, passionate, and dedicated, but now it was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who commanded his allegiance.
So, in 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul writes, “And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’” the essential humor of such a statement may strike us as odd. In comparing the church to the human body and extolling the necessity and usefulness of each part – the hands, the feet, the eyes, the nose, and even the “less honorable” parts – Paul is making the point that we all have a part to play in doing the work of the church.
We should not be discouraged or feel overwhelmed by the multitude and magnitude of the problems in our world. Each of us, Paul says, is specifically equipped to play our part, to contribute to “the common good.” And just because our part may seem small compared to what others may be doing, we should not feel that it is unimportant.
Despite all that is going on in the world today – from war, oppression, and injustice rooted in government policies to abuse, inequality, and selfishness stemming from our own lifestyle choices – there are things that we can do, each one of us, one at a time, to help meet the needs of those who suffer.
Remembering that we all have unique gifts and callings as Paul so eloquently points out, our response to problems and suffering in the world can be directed to reducing or eliminating the causes of problems, or, just as importantly, to ministering to those who suffer because of problems. One is not more important than the other. “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?” (1 Cor. 12:17)
The first thing that we can each do is to examine our own lifestyle choices and the impact that our choices have on others or the environment. Despite the human tendency to blame others for problems, it is far too often true that we contribute, perhaps unwittingly, to many of today’s problems.
We can work through specific ministries of local churches or other faith-based organizations or through international organizations. For example, Oxfam is an “international confederation of charitable organizations focused on the alleviation of global poverty” (Wikipedia) Oxfam was founded in 1942 by a group of Quakers and Oxford academics to advocate for famine relief. Today Oxfam’s efforts encompass a broad variety of issues from immigration to hunger, from political activism to poverty. Individuals can advocate for reducing income inequality, donate to emergency relief, host a hunger banquet, work for Oxfam, and be involved in many other ways. Each of us can do something.
Here are some links to specific opportunities with Oxfam America:
- Oxfam America: general information and home page for Oxfam American – https://www.oxfamamerica.org/
- Stand with refugees: 7 ways you can help refugees right now – https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/stories/7-ways-you-can-help-refugees-right-now/
- Take Action: opportunities to be actively involved – campaign for change, attend or host an event, be a fundraiser – https://www.oxfamamerica.org/take-action/
- Donate: contribute to shelter, education or starting a small business – https://www.oxfamamerica.org/donate/
There are other ways contribute to “the common good.” Oxfam is just one. But in any case it is up to each of us, one at a time, coming together to help relieve suffering and make peace.
Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns.