If you have seen either or both of the “Jumanji” movies you know that each of the players takes on the attributes of one of the characters in the video game. In the movies the players actually become the avatars of the game characters. Each character has certain strengths and weaknesses unique to them and it requires the special strengths of each character to be utilized for the team to be successful in their mission. Each character’s weakness must also be avoided if possible. Each character has a unique role to play that depends on their particular strengths. If any one of the players fails to fulfill their role the mission is doomed to failure for all the players. Success of the mission definitely requires an all-out team effort.
Now it seems to me that God’s intent for the Church, the Body of Christ, is similar to this in many ways. Each of us as members of the Body have unique natural strengths and weaknesses, as well as God-given gifts. As the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (I Corinthians 12:1, 4-7 NIV) He then goes on to list a number of these gifts, although not all of them. These gifts allow each individual to perform at a higher level that they are capable of using only their natural strengths.
Paul goes on to describe the Body of Christ thusly “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ…Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (I Corinthians 12:12, 14, 18 NIV) Paul then goes to some length to make the point that it takes all of the parts to complete the Body and that each is just as essential as the next.
The upshot of this is that, just as in Jumanji, each of us with our own unique strengths, gifts and even weaknesses must work together if the mission of the Church is to be accomplished. That mission will be impossible to achieve without utilizing the unique strengths and gifts of all the parts of the Body of Christ. Now it happens that, just as in Jumanji, some of us are jealous of other’s strengths and gifts, and wish we did not have the weaknesses of our character (that is, us). And just like in the game we occasionally cause someone else (or even ourselves) to fail. In the game that means we cause someone to lose one of the three lives allocated to them. Hopefully in real life the failures are not fatal since we only have one life, but they represent setbacks to the mission anyway. So whether you prefer to think of the universal Church as the Body of Christ or as a team of people each with their own unique strengths (and weaknesses) and roles as in Jumanji, we would be much better off in pursuing the mission of the church to share the gospel of the kingdom of God with the whole world if we would learn to work together as a unit rather than arguing over who has the better strengths or the worst weaknesses and by combining all of our best efforts to reach a common goal.
Given the fractured and fragmented state of the Body of Christ today, as it has been for all but the first few decades of the Church’s existence, with all of its dissensions and bickering, it may seem that achieving a unified body with one common goal is impossible. But I believe that nothing is impossible with God. I am confident he is not surprised by this lack of unity and that he has a plan to accomplish that goal in spite of it. I have seen several posts on Facebook recently that say essentially the same thing; i.e., when God called you to the mission he has called you to do he took into account your own faults and stupidity. I would add that his plan includes a way to overcome those shortcomings. And I believe that applies not only to each of us as individuals but also to the Church as a whole and the mission to which he has called us. I am beginning to see some signs of that already and am eager to see how God completes the work he has begun so that we can all come together and complete our mission. It will be done!