Christ, the Head of the Body
When have you faced a battle alone?
We see American individualism in the rugged, resourceful heroes of our action movies. In cowboys and astronauts and entrepreneurs and inventors. In women and men who show resilience and self-sufficiency and independence.
Such individuals are an important part of the American dream, and we see them all around us. Where we don’t find them is in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. “See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception,” warns Paul, “which conform to human traditions” (Colossians 2:8).
Instead of the human tradition of rugged individualism, Paul challenges us to see ourselves as part of the body of Christ. “All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body,” he says. “And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority” (verses 9 and 10).
We do not have to face the challenges of life alone, because we are part of a community that has Jesus Christ as the head. According to Paul, this body is not a collection of isolated individuals who show self-sufficiency and independence. Instead, it is a well-coordinated community that takes its guidance from Jesus. No lonely cowboys. No rugged movie heroes. No isolated astronauts, alone in space.
In my novel City of Peace, a Methodist pastor named Harley Camden loses his wife and daughter in a European terrorist attack. He spirals downward into grief and anger, until his bishop sends him to the small town of Occoquan to heal and to recover.
In time, he comes to the realization that he has been fighting too many battles alone. Whether calling for global justice or nursing his own personal wounds, he has been acting in isolation. A lone voice in the wilderness, he has been a bitter man holding on to his resentments. But these efforts have usually ended in frustration and loneliness, because they ignore the presence of something much bigger than himself.
In community with his new neighbors, Harley discovers that he is part of a body with Christ as the head. “Look at the face of Jesus,” he says to his congregation one Sunday, pointing to a stained-glass window. “Such calm in the middle of a storm.” He sees that Jesus truly is the “head of every ruler and authority” (verse 10), and that there is nothing that he and his parishioners cannot face as members of the body of Christ.
When I am dealing with a personal struggle, I know that I need to look left and right to the people around me. I also need to look up to the one who is the head of the body, Jesus Christ. He has power over the rulers of this world, and the ability to give me calm in the middle of a storm.
Remind me that I am part of your body, Lord Jesus, and help me to trust your power. Amen.