How does the body of Christ maintain her mental health?
We often think about the church as the body of Christ functioning like a human body. In I Corinthians 12, we consider what it means to be a Jesus-centred community in which each part is honoured and each part does its work.
Anabaptists, in particular, hold this metaphor dearly. We love the church, or at least we should—since we confess that following Jesus and being church are indistinguishable—and we really do seek to practise this. It’s beautiful. And hard. We persevere, however, spurred on by Paul’s word picture to use our gifts for the greater good. For a healthy body, everyone’s gift is necessary.
But have you ever wondered how the church maintains her mental health? The metaphor of the body used by Paul must include the head. Otherwise, it’s a rather disgusting visual!
Perhaps our minds wander to those who lead or teachers or scholars? That’s an understandable thought, but actually not what the New Testament teaches in regard to the “head” of the church. The metaphor of the church as a body is sprinkled throughout Paul’s letter and every time it is Christ who is the head of the church. He is Lord, Master and the brains of the operation. We have diverse gifts, but no one in the church is the head, save Jesus Christ alone. He is our beautiful mind, and we are only fully healthy as his body if he is leading us and we are responding to his thoughts.
In other words, if we attempt to do the works of the body—including leading, teaching and studying—without the mind of Christ, we are spiritually headless and headed towards death and decline.
Earlier in I Corinthians Paul calls the floundering Greek church to a renewed surrender. Members are to cease following the wisdom of humanity and, instead, tap into the power of God. And the power of God—that which was in the mind of God always—is redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and restoration to God and our original calling through Jesus Christ and him crucified. To the world, this message is folly, even a sign of mental instability, but the church actually rests in the mind of the Lord.
If we are a spiritual body, then we must also think spiritually. And to think spiritually requires the indwelling Holy Spirit, which Paul says is the mind of Christ in I Corinthians 2:14-16. And so this beautiful mind is our head and we, the body, are receiving our instructions and seeing the world through him.
We do not start with human wisdom. In fact, such wisdom is doomed to pass away. The church starts with gospel, with good news, with Jesus and his cross, no matter how foolish a notion that seems. Indeed, the cross stands as an indictment against all human thinking of how life should be and how we are made whole, and then we live by the directing and empowering of Spirit of God—the beautiful mind of Christ—in the world.
So discuss amongst yourselves: Which mind is your local fellowship taking directions from? How would your church’s mental health be maintained or perhaps even restored?
Phil Wagler lives in Surrey, B.C. He and his wife have experienced the impact of mental health as a family and how the Spirit of God can transform even those dark valleys through the church that stays true to him who is the head.
See a previous reflection by Phil Wagler: “To whom do we listen?”