The Broken Body

river-in-fallA few weeks ago I went through some testing for several autoimmune disorders. The tests eventually came back normal, but while I was waiting for the results, I started hearing story after story from people who were living with everything from lupus to rheumatoid arthritis. When a body starts to attack itself, it’s not a pretty thing.

Something that’s supposed to function as a unit starts to have all kinds of issues when it turns its weapons inward.

We Jesus followers are intimately familiar with the ugliness of internal conflict. We’re all a bunch of humans, with a tendency to act really human-y. We limp ungracefully along, looking more like the Bride of Frankenstein than the Bride of Christ.

The Church, the Body of Christ, is a giant, complicated mess, with as many backgrounds, opinions, personalities, and areas of brokenness as there are members. And we’re supposed to be unified. Jesus said so.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about unity, and I feel that I’m coming to a different understanding of it than I’ve had before. It looks less like butterflies kissing rainbows in an everybody-gets-along kind of world, and more like a breathlessly gory struggle with hard truths. As difficult as it can be to imagine, there is a day coming when we really will all get along as we stand shoulder to shoulder before God’s throne, our worship sweeter because of each other’s presence. And I’m convinced that we can’t work toward real unity without that eternal perspective.

Because, people, this oneness thing is hard. We’re still so tangled up in our flesh that we can be pretty horrible to each other.

The long journey toward unity within the Body of Christ is not a feel-good process, because it’s all about looking sin in the face, calling it what it is, and wrestling it to the ground. It’s about laying down our right to be right, to be heard and vindicated. It’s about letting go of the assumptions we have about other people’s thoughts and motivations. It’s about facing down the fear we have of being uncomfortable, out of control, misunderstood. It’s even about speaking up, outlining appropriate boundaries, saying no when we need to, and gently drawing each other’s attention to areas where our lives don’t line up with what the Bible says. And it’s the humility to admit we’re broken and maybe even wrong.

Sometimes working towards unity looks like letting go and giving the Spirit of God the time and space to heal deep wounds in us and others, restoring unity first between us and Him. Until I’m right with Him and you’re right with Him, the way we see each other will always be warped.

Our vision towards each other is only clear when we’re looking at Jesus, remembering the body of Christ punished and gory so that the Body of Christ can be restored and whole. Complete, unshadowed unity looks like all of us on our knees, on our faces, worshiping with one voice the God who broke Himself to put us back together.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~John 17:20-23 (NIV)


  1. Linda Niehoff
    Nov 4, 2016

    I loved reading your blog. It brought back memories and feelings of being in Brazil as a Wycliffe missionary for over 4o years. It was so difficult when others criticized me and I felt like someone trying to get on the merry go round to join the others and I just couldn’t catch up. “Why wouldn’t they let me on?” It was hard trying to live up to other people’s expectations, but the Lord saw me through all those tough times. Now we are retired and living near the JAARS Center and for the past five years I’ve been mostly in bed because of anxiety and depression, trying to figure out why the Lord is allowing me to live like this. However, His purposes are greater than my desires and I’ve had lots of time to talk with Him and pray for others.

    Again, thank you for your blog. Unity will only come when we all get to glory.

    Linda Niehoff

    By the way, the Mathesons were our next door neighbors for lots of years in Brazil.

    • beth
      Nov 10, 2016

      Linda, I’ve heard your name in some of the stories my husband tells about his Brazil years. Depression and anxiety are so very difficult… I’m praying that you’re able to continue leaning hard into the Lord while you wait for healing. Blessings.

  2. Mary Carver
    Nov 10, 2016

    Hi Beth! This post is beautiful. And so timely – and needed. Thank you. I actually work for, a Christian parenting site, and I’d love to share your post with our readers. With your permission, I’d like to republish it on our site, giving you full credit as author, linking back to the original post, and including your bio and head shot. What do you think? Please email me any questions and to let me know if you’d like to share your post with For Every Mom. Thank you!

    • beth
      Nov 10, 2016

      Just sent you an email. 🙂

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