"But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (I Corinthians 12:24b-25)."
After enduring a few days of pain from running 26.2 miles, and the unbalanced nature of that pain (if you've ever taxed an area full of muscles, you'll understand), I think I have a better context for interpreting the "parts of the body" imagery Paul used in I Corinthians than I have in the past. Whenever I've looked at it before, it's always been from a separate but equal kind of thing. Yes, the foot is bigger than the eye, but I don't ever want to be in the position of choosing one over the other. So what to do with the "parts that lacked" honor?
When we think of living in Christian community, we can romanticize it to a degree and view "putting up with" each other's weaknesses joyfully. But with work, it is different. Work calls us to produce, earn a living, and achieve. When those we work with don't live up to our level or expectations of productivity, or aren't on the same page, it causes extra work, animosity and conflict.
The apostle Paul would have gotten that, because he worked really hard and put his heart into his ministry and his neck on the chopping block not a few times. He knew what it was like to be disappointed with those he invested lots of time in, but didn't seem to get it. People who forgot who he was the minute their attention went elsewhere. But he chose to speak in these terms with authority.
Because it's not just people who fail to live up to our expectations, but the reality that God has chosen all mankind to be loved, and so in a community of believers, there will be high achievers and low achievers, high functioning and low functioning. As we think often in our community as being fellow laborers with God (I Corinthians 3:9), and work in our world is so much about production, the desire is frequently to be a productive community, but where we set the pace. And when others cannot produce or will not produce, we may be tempted to marginalize them because they are not useful...they're weak!
If I could have gotten rid of the small, weak muscles that were most screaming during and after my last race, it would not have made me a better runner; it would have made me a less stable one. The muscles that may seem most useless, God has still arranged in our bodies. The members that may seem most useless to our personal missions, God has still arranged in our church bodies. To keep us from choosing our missions over God's. So that there would be no division in the body. So that we would have concern for each other.
Because sometimes unity doesn't take us forward, but holds us back so that we arrive in one piece!