The sinister effects of disease can often be traced back to the malfunctioning of one type of cell, be it leprosy, sickle cell anaemia or leukaemia. Cells in the body may be numerous and diverse, but they are not expendable; each has its own function that is necessary to allow other cells to work properly.
The worth of each member is also a vital aspect of the Church, the body of Christ. Paul makes it very clear that Christ has chosen each member to make a unique contribution to his body. We do not all have the same task and we should not view certain roles as more valuable. He emphasises that, '…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour...' (1 Cor 12:22,23)
This may be particularly difficult for us to grasp; as medical students, we are submersed in a hierarchical system. Personally, I often have a greater sense of worth when I achieve good grades or when I receive praise from a superior. Conversely, I can feel worthless when I am completely ignored in hospital and treated like I am at the 'bottom of the ladder'. In a culture that is defined by rating systems, it is hard to stop viewing ourselves and others through a worldly perspective and to acquire a godly perspective instead. But discriminating on the basis of status is sinful (Jas 2:2-10). Paul reminds us that we are all made equal in Christ, stating that 'Here there is no Greek or Jew…slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.' (Col 3:11)
The authors encourage us to prevent an attitude of relative worth seeping into the church. We should be like a family where achievements, appearance, popularity and wealth do not affect the way we love each other. The only thing that matters is our loyalty to Christ, and our loyalty through Christ to each other. In the human body, cells are only useful if they are in line with their control centre – the brain. God requires the same from his 'cells', that each person is loyal to the head.
The authors close the chapter with these words, 'If each of us can learn to glory in the fact that we matter little except in relation to the Body, and if each will acknowledge the worth in every other member, then perhaps the cells of Christ's Body will begin acting as he intended.' The challenge seems tough, but it is something we can aspire to as we daily become more like Christ.