About two months ago, I became aware a friend was suffering from a severe infection in her toe. The pain was so bad it kept her from being able to walk much. She reluctantly began a round of antibiotics, and I assumed she had taken care of the problem. A few days ago, I found out it hadn’t healed; in fact, it had grown much worse. She told me something regarding her ordeal that has stayed with me. She said, “It is so frustrating that such a small part of my body can be so bothersome!”
I’m working on a lesson about problems within the body of Christ for my next Bible study book. So, when I heard her reference to the body, my mind immediately thought of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (I have posted only the first and last verse here; to read the entire passage, hover your cursor over the reference and it will pop up.) Sometimes an infection gets into a group of believers and causes pain similar to the burdensome pain of my friend’s experience. To say that an “infection” permeates a group of believers may make you think of so-and-so who did such-and-such that caused so much pain in our church. However, when I say “infection,” please know that people are not infections. The infections that get into our churches are pride, hypocrisy, selfishness, and the rest of our sinful devices. Those things grow and spread throughout the body, causing pain wherever they go.
On the same day I found out my friend’s toe problem hadn’t yet healed, my daughter hobbled around saying her foot hurt. She’s been suffering from growing pains in her legs and joints lately. I attributed her pain to that, offered her some children’s pain reliever, and told her it would get better. An hour later, she was still crying. My husband looked at her foot and found, upon close examination, that a little, barely visible splinter was in the arch of her foot. Through much pinching, poking, and tweezing on our part and many screams and wails on her part, we finally extracted the foreign object. What looked like a mere speck on the outside was long and went deep into her foot. You know me, I immediately thought, “There’s a lesson here.”
The lesson isn’t that you shouldn’t walk outside barefoot because I am a big proponent of that myself.
The lesson is that problems may appear small and inconsequential on the surface but as you start working them out, you realize how deep they go. Again, I think it is the same way in our churches. We tend to ignore a problem; we think it’s really no big deal. Maybe we even offer some generic pain reliever like I did to my daughter but it doesn’t help the situation. However, we may not realize how deep the problem goes and how much pain it’s causing. We have to work out the splinters, even if it causes some screaming and wailing in the process. Only when we removed the splinter was my daughter free to run and jump and do all the things kids love to do without any pain. Just like people aren’t infections, people aren’t splinters. At their most basic level, “splinters” look very much like “infections.” They are all the problems caused when we let our sinful side control us rather than the Spirit of God. When the Spirit controls us, then we also can run, jump, and be spiritually free just like my daughter was able to do once her pain was gone.