I was reminded the other day of something special that happened at the Seattle Special Olympics many years ago. There were nine contestants, all physically or mentally disabled, assembled at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. At the gun they all started out, not exactly in a dash, but with a relish to run the race to the finish and win. All, that is, except one boy who stumbled on the asphalt, tumbled over a couple of times and began to cry. The other eight heard the boy cry. They slowed down and paused. Then they all turned around and went back; every one of them. One girl bent down and kissed him and said, “This will make it better.” Then all nine linked arms and walked together to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood, and the cheering went on for ten minutes.
I think the reason this story strikes a chord with so many is that it speaks to the truth that we all need each other. It isn’t just about winning, but about helping each other out along the way. True glory isn’t found in achieving at all costs, but in loving and helping our neighbors – even to the point of sacrifice.
Of course, the Church should understand this well. The Apostle Paul reminds us in several of his letters that everyone is needed in the Church. There are no gifts that aren’t necessary. Together we make up the Body of Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:24-27: “God put our bodies together in such a way that even the parts that seem the least are important and valuable. He did this to make all parts of the body work together smoothly, with each part caring about the others. If one part of our body hurts, we hurt all over. If one part of our body is honored, the whole body will be happy. Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body.”
The most important lesson I have learned in ministry is that I can’t (and shouldn’t try) to do it all by myself. Indeed, I have come to understand that very attitude as a mark of unfaithfulness. Not only must I rely on God to accomplish anything worthwhile in my life and ministry, but I must also rely on the gifts and commitments of my brothers and sisters in the church. I have found the more I remember and practice this truth, the better off everyone will be – me included.
God used Paul in powerful ways to build the Church from a collection of small groups of believers to a movement that would change the course of history. Paul couldn’t have done that by himself. He couldn’t preach in every church. He could teach every class or lead every meeting. He trusted in God and his fellow believers. And that continues to be the only way to go.
So, take your place in the Body of Christ! Your gifts are needed to make us whole and complete.