Stuff to get you thinking, praying and acting... 

If one part suffers

By Nell Goddard / September 23, 2014

I currently have a wisdom tooth coming through. And blimey, who would have thought that such a small body part could cause so much pain. It really is quite something. Practically inhaling ibuprofen and paracetamol, and smothering what feels like my entire mouth in bonjela, I try and muddle on through the day. But the teething gives me a headache, and it’s too painful to eat. Then my stomach hurts because I’m hungry, and I get shaky because I haven’t eaten enough. And suddenly, it feels like my tooth is waging a full-blown war on the rest of my body.

‘If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it’ (1 Cor 12:26). It seems a bit daft to say that something as simple as a toothache showed me that this is true, but it really did. If one part of your body in pain, pretty quickly the rest of it ends up feeling rubbish as well. If one part of it hurts, it all hurts.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul describes the church as being like a body – one whole with many parts. He uses this analogy to speak not only of the importance of unity: ‘there should be no division in the body, but that its parts have equal concern for one another’ (1 Cor 12:25), but also of what it means to suffer with one another.

Suffering with one another seems like a strange idea. I mean, if I had a choice for just my tooth to hurt and nothing else, or for my whole body to hurt along with my tooth, I would definitely go for the former. I’d rather one part hurt and the rest of my body could just ignore it and get on with life.

Except. Except it doesn’t work like that. My body is not made like that. It’s all interlinked, all connected up, whether I like it or not. And Paul says that this is a reflection of the body of Christ – of the church. As much as I might want to ignore all that’s happening to Christians across the world, all the persecution and all the pain, this is just not possible. Those Christians being beaten, tortured and killed for their faith are my family. They are my body. They are part of the very essence of who I am. And therefore apathy is not an option.

Indifference is not even the remotest possibility. Part of me is hurting – and so I must do everything in my power to help, protect and strengthen it.

This is how it works with the church. This is how it works with our fellow believers. This is how it should work in our lives. Being a body means being connected, it means knowing about what is happening across our entirety.

Part of me is hurting – and so I must do everything in my power to help, protect and strengthen it.

It means educating ourselves and educating those around us. And when we are educated, we can pray intelligently for their needs. We can send support to help, protect, and strengthen.

As a body, we are connected – in the pain, in the triumph, and in prayer. So when the reality is that one part of the body is having a full-blown war waged against it – we need only to look to places such North Korea, Iran, Syria, and many others to see the reality of that today – we are called, as a body, to stand with those who are living in the reality of persecution, and to ‘strengthen what remains and is about to die’ (Rev 3:2).


Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

  1. What in this passage and commentary do you particularly like?
  2. What in this particularly challenges you?
  3. In what ways can you see the church acting like a body? How does that affect how you see your church family?
  4. Can you think of a time when someone has come alongside you in your suffering, and encouraged and strengthened you through that?
  5. What do you think it looks like to suffer with other members of our body? What practical steps could you be taking to ensure that you are acting as part of a body of believers e.g. prayer?
The Author
Nell is a student, blogger, feminist and introvert who likes to talk. On a good day she's also a theologian. Nell's been interning with us at Open Doors Youth over the summer, so we've been chuffed to have her on the team!

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.