I must admit I never quite looked at pain the way that Paul Brand and Philip Yancey record in the article Putting Pain to Work which is posted on BuildingChurchLeaders.com. Illustrating from his experience working with people suffering from leprosy, Paul highlights the importance of pain in healthy bodies. This correlates directly with the healthiness of the body of Christ as well. He says,
As I turn from the network of pain in biology to its analogy in the Body of Christ, comprising all believers, again I am struck by the importance of such a communicative system. Pain serves as vital a role in protecting and uniting that corporate membership as it does in guarding the cells of my own body.
He goes on to relate that these connections within the body of Christ should unite us with the plight of fellow Christian brothers and sisters all over the globe – both locally at home and abroad oversea. His appeal to the church is whether we feel the suffering in the world as God does – does that pain move us to action?
Today our world has shrunk, and as a Body we live in awareness of all cells: persecuted Russian believers, starving Africans, oppressed South Africans and Indochinese and Central Americans ? the litany fills our newspapers. Do we fully attend? Do we hear their cries as unmistakably as our brains hear the complaints of a strained back or broken arm? Or do we instead turn down the volume, filtering out annoying sounds of distress?
And closer, within the confines of our own local membership of Christ’s Body-how do we respond? Tragically, the divorced, the alcoholics, the introverted, the rebellious, the unemployed often report that the church is the last body to show them compassion. Like a person who takes aspirin at the first sign of headache, we want to silence them, to “cure” them without addressing the underlying causes.
Then Paul goes on to say this,
In the human body, when an area loses sensory contact with the rest of the body, even when its nourishment system remains intact, that part begins to wither and atrophy. In the vast majority of cases?95 of 100 insensitive hands I have examined?severe injury or deformation results. The body poorly protects what it does not feel. In the spiritual Body, also, loss of feeling inevitably leads to atrophy and inner deterioration. So much of the sorrow in the world is due to the selfishness of one living organism that simply does not care when another suffers. In Christ’s Body we suffer because we do not suffer enough.
What a potent observation! And humbling as well. A church that has lost it’s feeling for the suffering in the world is a church that has lost it’s impact as well. It’s a truth – the more the church feels the more it will serve. After all we read in scripture that Christ acted as He was moved to compassion by the suffering of those he saw (Mt 9:36, Mt 14:14, Mt.20:34..and many other examples).
Finally, Brand finishes with the story of a man named Pedro who because of an anamoly in the artery structure of his hand there was one spot where the leprosy bacilli didn’t take over his nerves because of the warm temperature in that spot. It became a sensitive spot which helped Pedro to guard his hand against injury. Paul makes this beautiful observation,
That single warm spot, the size of a nickel, which Pedro had previously viewed as a defect, had become a wonderful advantage to him when he contracted leprosy. That one remaining patch of sensitivity protected his entire hand.
In a church that has grown large and institutional, I pray for similar small patches of sensitivity. We must look to prophets, whether in speech, sermon, or art form, who will call attention to the needy by eloquently voicing their pain.
I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Brand’s observation and echo with him that we need to put pain to work in the body of Christ! Needless to say this article was a great read!