Not all Christians are individually called to suffer the way the slaves of 1 Peter 2:18-21 were called to suffer. But it’s important to remember that no Christian or group of Christians exists as an independent unit, as if they were not a part of the Community of Faith. This means that while only certain members of Christ’s body are called to some particular experience or path that it is nevertheless the Church as a single body that experiences this or walks that path. If a finger or eye is badly mangled the body suffers.
As a physical body has many parts and is yet one body so also is the Church (Romans 12:4-5 1 Corinthians 12:12). It’s true that the eyes don’t do the hearing and the nose doesn’t do the seeing; but it is not true that seeing and hearing and smelling are completely isolated and independent workers. Seeing is a function of the body and not merely the eyes!
The eyes don’t see through the eyes; it is the body that sees through the eyes! The ears don’t hear through the ears; it is not the nose that smells through the nose. Hearing and smelling is what the body as a single and undivided unit does and it does these things through the various parts of the body.
So it is with the Body of Christ. There are no isolated parts that function independently of the rest of the body. A hand in a body has no existence without the body. It can only be understood as a hand PRECISELY BECAUSE there is a body of which it is a part.
This remains true even though the hand is not the foot and the eye is not the ear. There is diversity within the parts of the body and the hand mustn’t abandon its function and lay the burden on the eye. Each one must bear his or her own specific burden and be held accountable in that regard. The church takes care of its children via its parents and it respects it parents via its children. The church serves its wives via its husbands and its husbands via its wives. Family members were instructed to take care of needy widows so that the “congregation” as a congregation should not be burdened (1 Timothy 5:16) and so be free to deal with other matters that specific individuals cannot handle.
The Bible and life has “a doctrine” of specificity of responsibility (for example, 1Timothy 5:8). But we’re not to allow that to mask the truth that when these specific responsibilities are being fulfilled by the various members (parts) that this is the Body at work; this is how the Body does its work!
When God calls specific people within the Body to a particular role we’re not to conclude that they are not functioning as the Body! Not everyone was called to patiently endure mistreatment at the hands of harsh masters but when God wills to allow it (1 Peter 3:17), because they are members of the Body it is the Body that is under attack by harsh masters. Christ told Paul in Acts 9 that when he persecuted the people of God he was persecuting their Lord. “Do it to me,” Jesus said, “You’re doing it to Me.” (Matthew 25)
It’s nonsense for us to think that any one of us exists independent of the rest of the People of God.
We are not “in Jesus Christ” independent of one another! The Spirit of Christ does NOT dwell in us independent of one another! We’re not “in the Body of Christ” independent of one another. We’re in this TOGETHER or not in it at all. By His grace and in faith I was Baptized into Jesus Christ and became part of a called out People, a Holy Nation, a Kingdom of Priests (Romans 6; 1 Peter 2), a part of the One Body (Ephesians 4).
To think of ourselves as independent, free-standing, individual Christians would be as foolish as an American thinking she/he is an American independent of America and the American nation.
[Holy Father, do deliver us from an unhealthy individualism! Deliver us too from a creeping “anarchy” that would dismiss all truth about “submission” and “authority”. Yes, and please deliver your People from those who would “lord it over” them. Cleanse and purify our hearts and minds so that our vision is clearer and so we will be more open to your teaching and more eager to happily, contentedly embrace and embody iit. This prayer in the Blessed Lord Jesus.]