In our independant Maverick-driven "I can do it on my own" world in which we live in, conversion to the Body of Christ is a tough one.
I remember eyeballing Christians before I gave in. I scrutinized them head to toe, marking their happy faces, nerdy appearances, Jesus bling-bling, and unique vocabulary with disdain.
I will never be like one of them.
Wasn't it Ghandi who said something like if it weren't for the behavior of the Christians around him he might well have considered becoming one himself?
Yet, in spite of their counter-culture demeanor, weird hair, and seemingly spineless decision-making procedures, Christians are a real force to be reckoned with, not so much who they are, but for who lives in them. Together and unified, they contain the very Spirit of Christ and reflect his very image, power, authority, and glory to the world.
Mere entrance into the Body of Christ is easy. When you believe that Jesus Christ died and rose from the grave for the forgiveness of your sins you automatically get membership into Christ's living, organic, Body. Not only that, but you enter into an ageless stream of countless throngs of other people (also called saints) as well. Some have gone before us and stare down from heaven - so many to number that they just look like a huge luminescent glob, or cloud of glory. Others haven't even been born yet. Oh, they are in that number, their names written in the Book and all that, but they just haven't shown up yet. Still others are living right here and now, in this day and age. They are all around us.
They are the ones that I'm talking about here.
But conversion to Body of Christ is a whole other matter. This requires a heart of humility, a heart of trust, and an ability to see through humanity into God's image and - at the same time - know that they are there to form you, inform you, sharpen you, prune you, encourage you, and express God's love to you all the same, in spite of their foibles, imperfections, and sometimes less-than-perfect lifestyles.
When a person is converted to the Body of Christ he or she takes her stand, her responsibility, in God's plan for her life. She is one who knows she has been called into something much bigger than she is and with a gracious humility, steps into those shoes. The interfacing with her other brother and sisters isn't superficial, it is real, authentic. She relies on others to form her into light, to prune her when needing discipline, and to experience glorious nature of her Creator through them.
Further, as one folds into the Body, he or she comes into an awareness of the particular role he has within the local church. He, too, has been given gifts (gr.: charisms) to be used for the building up of those around him. Through him - his words, actions, behavior, integrity, and so on - others will also be brought deeper into the light of Christ, others too will be pruned, disciplined, encouraged, and blessed. One day he or she will realize that life outside the Body of believers - life outside the Vine, shall we say - is no life at all.
And, of course, this is really really hard for some of us who have been really really hurt by others. How can we ever regain trust, how can we allow others accessibility into the wounds of our hearts when when we've done that in the past they've torn us to shreds? (Satan does a pretty good job in keeping us cloistered, doesn't he? Perhaps he knows the wonder of what happens when the Body of Christ does life together, fully trusting one another, fully mobilized for God's plan on earth and it scares him.)
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands. Revelation 2:1
It's a funny thing, when our focus is on Jesus, who walks in the midst of the churches, of the people, we are all the more able to trust, to love, and to be loved by others. We know that he is so much bigger than they are, and that he uses others, foibles and all, to form us into the glory of God. It is then when the hurts don't hurt as bad and the walls can drop a bit. We can be at ease. Jesus loves us, and he uses us to love us, through us. We are actually, at the end of the Day, one Body.