This was both an interesting chapter and at times difficult. There were points in reading it I felt real anger which I will address below.
The chapter juxtaposes two metaphors commonly used in the New Testament to describe the Church. The first is that used by St Paul of the Church as a body. With each member of the Church being a different part or “member” of the body. Each having its own gifts and responsibilities. I agree with the text that perhaps this metaphor has been overused at this point where it may no longer serve us in this vastly different cultural setting in which we exist. The text makes an excellent point that this metaphor reinforces individuality and independence of each member within the Church while at the same time we are living in a society where these concepts have become distorted, if not down right destructive.
In comparison, the second metaphor is that of the Church as a family. This metaphor may help us to correct some of the problems we face in modern society. A family has equal members where all share the burdens. Members are not separated or identified by their gifts but rather according to their maturity. Just as in a family the more mature teach and nourish the younger generation. It promotes interdependence, self sacrifice, and putting the community first.
This is where I had difficulty with the chapter. The text talks about (1) how we don’t choose our family, (2) That we shouldn’t be looking for the “perfect” church, e.g. church shopping, (3) the group comes first. Now, perhaps I am misunderstanding the implications or reading into it my own biases. It seems to that we all eventually choose our families. Hopefully, if we grow up in a happy, healthy, and loving home then our biological family will make the cut. However, we all know that many families are not that. Some are abusive and destructive. That “group” cannot be put first before our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
The same goes for the Churches and other groups we are reared in or first experience in our lives. None are perfect. However, there are some that exclude, injure, persecute and deny some of our very existences as a core belief. Even if one gets beyond the fact that their are thousands of “Christian” churches, the fact remains that the Church, however, you define it is meant to protect the the vulnerable, not demand that they be inauthentic or be punished. While, I love the family metaphor and accept that it has great merit and answers many of our problems, I do not want to be naïve and pretend that there won’t always be tension between the group and the individual members . If we love as Christ loves then there will be no division. I await the day…