The Arms of Christ

This past week, I have been freshly tendered toward the beauty and honor and comfort it is to be a part of the Body of Christ. It is a terrifyingly majestic and powerful entity. The very Spirit of the Living God breathes into His people and animates us to be His hands and feet to this world. What kind of God does that? What kind of God invites us into that kind of fellowship with Him and with His children? What kind of God extends that kind of honor and power to souls once dead to sin?

The physical Body of Christ – the Man of Jesus – walked on the humble sod of this created earth over 2000 years ago. And as He did, He reached toward the hurting. His hands touched the festering wounds of those long forgotten. He gathered the little children up in His arms. His fingers touched a blind man’s eyes and restored his sight. His lips spoke life back into the dead. Oh, to have known Him then. To have reached humble arms toward the man of Christ and walked into His embrace. To have buried our faces in His chest. To have clung to His hands in our fear and frailty.

And yet, Jesus Himself said: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). I cannot get over those words. I think that nothing could make me braver than to see the Man of Christ. And yet, He says, the kind of power that we need to be His hands and feet to this world will come from the Holy Spirit of God, the Helper, dwelling not with us but within us. As if God-made-man in the person of Christ were not mind-blowing enough, that very Man then declares that God will take up residence within everyone who calls on the saving Name of Jesus. What in the world?

The eternal God wrapped Himself in mortality, took our sins upon Him and died for us that we might live in Him. And then, in a move equally as shocking, He sent His very Spirit to take up residence within these bodies of rescued flesh. Whoa! It ought to leave us awestruck. And with that Spirit comes power to be witnesses for Christ to all the earth (Acts 1:8). By that Spirit, we are welcomed into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13) – the Church, made up of all who’ve called upon the name of Christ. It’s why we are able to be the hands and feet, the eyes and mouth, the ears and – yes – even the spleen and liver to the world in which He’s placed us. We are the dwelling places of His Spirit, and together, we are His witness to this world.

But that’s all starting to sound kind of hypothetical, isn’t it? And I’m not into that right now. I’m into what it looks like. I’m into what it means for me on a Friday. So I will tell you what it has meant to me this week.

It is an honor to get to love with Christ’s love, to get to serve as His hands. It is a privilege that we get to show His love and offer His grace to those around us. But that gift can be rejected. Wounded hearts and broken spirits can be slow to receive the kind of love and healing that God extends. Cynicism and pain can blind us to His mercy. Doubt and condemnation can drive us from His arms.

I watched this week as the body of Christ reached toward one of His children with love and acceptance and grace that left me astounded. I had no doubt that only God could orchestrate the kind of things that He did. And I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to get to be His hands and feet. I was willing, more than I’d ever been before, more than my flesh without the Spirit of Christ could ever be. And I watched a hurting soul refuse it. And the brokenness of this world stunned me. It threatened my faith. It came after my hope. It nearly broke me.

But then this frighteningly beautiful thing called the Body of Christ reached toward me. And I realized, with a blow to my pride and a relief to my spirit, that if I would accept His comfort, the very arms of Christ were waiting to wrap around me. Quite literally. In hands that reached toward my trembling ones after a day of decisions I’d not anticipated having to make. In phone calls from friends. In their immediate availability. In her willingness to rearrange plans in order to share breakfast when the nights had proven long and restless. In silent companionship. In well-timed words. In a hand on my shoulder and whispered prayer when nothing else would help.

There are not givers and takers in this thing we call the Body. There are people. And those people are filled up to fullness by the power of Christ’s Spirit living in us. And so we reach toward the hurting, and we fling our arms around them. And when we are hurting, we walk humbly into the arms of others. We walk courageously into the darkness around us, and by the grace of God, He lights the way. And when that darkness leaves us trembling and confused, we look around us, and we find His light in the hope and faith and courage of others.

And we let them turn our face back into that light of Christ. We let them take our chin and lift it up. We let them redirect our gaze to the One who has always been and always will be faithful. And we stand again with renewed faith and a bolder kind of courage, as we marvel at this Great God whose goodness and power far outweighs all of the evil this world contains.

Sometimes we need to give. And sometimes we need to take. And here, nestled into the Body of Christ, we get to do both. We are honored to give. We are blessed to receive. And the Lord’s Church, empowered and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, is a wondrous sight to behold.

It is a privilege and a comfort to walk through life a part of you.

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