The Beloved Community

Last spring, members of my church spent a day volunteering to help build a house for “Habitat For Humanity” in our town. Given hammers, nails, tape measures, and saws, our church was specifically tasked with installing a kitchen floor in the home we were building.

While I like to think I am good at carpentry work, the reality is there is a reason my family and friends don’t ask me to help them with home improvement projects. And for my church community, my lack of carpentry skills became apparent after I found myself accidentally taking the wrong measurements which caused us to cut the floor tile incorrectly leaving the tile we installed to look more like a jigsaw puzzle than a kitchen floor.

Even though my church had to discover the hard way why I can’t be trusted with a measuring tape and a saw, I am lucky they trust me with other skills they know I have which can contribute to our ministry. And it’s this diversity in gifts and skills which makes not only for effective ministry but also makes up something much more.

In scripture, Paul talks about in Corinthians about the “body of Christ.” In his letter, he speaks about the diversity of people in the church and how everyone makes up the body of Christ.

“ Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ,” he writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

Dr. Martin Luther King once talked about the need for a “Beloved Community” where the skills and gifts of different people came together to create a community of love and compassion.

“I truly believe the mission of the church is to be the qualitative change in our souls  as well as a quantitative change in our lives. For us as parts of the body of Christ, we cannot serve others or spread the love of Jesus Christ by ourselves. In order to do this, we must come together to form the body of Jesus Christ. And when we do so, we inturn create quantitative change but also bring fourth a beloved community.”

Just as in my case carpentry skills are something I cannot contribute to the church, my skills in ministry leadership to my amazing skills at running a church dishwasher is how I contribute to our church ministry. And when those in the church with different skills in music, cooking, teaching, and leading come together, we not only create wonderful communities of faith, but we also make the body of Christ which seeks to minister to others in ways no one person can minister alone.

“We are the Body of Christ, writes St. Augustine. “In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken. You are to be blessed, broken and distributed, that you may be the means of grace and vehicles of eternal love.’

Despite all of the divisions right now in the United States, healing and reconciliation is what needs to be found between Americans. However, the work to create Dr. King’s beloved community needs to continue where we can value the gifts and skills of others and work towards serving those in need.

For us, we need to understand that when communities come together, we can accomplish great transformations in our neighborhoods while also as individuals we can find a sense of compassionate companionship that as Paul writes, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.”

If we can discover the gifts and talents of those around us and find ways to come together to share Christ’s message of love and compassion, then we not only can create the beloved community Dr. King once envisioned. But we also can come together and truly be the body of Christ.