David Levin wrote to the Tidings, and his letter was published
as a follow-up to my article [see Lesson, One body, implications of the
]. In it he wrote:
"George wrote: 'each member BELONGS to all the others'. The
word BELONGS stands alongside the idea of BELIEVES in defining the one body in
Christ. Too many of us, myself included for many years, averred that the body of
Christ was to be defined as 'those of a common belief system'. Only in the past
several years have I come to appreciate the principle of BELONGING as equally
necessary in circumscribing a worldwide body of Christ.
"The analogy of the natural body requires us to discretely
demarcate our membership. None of our natural bodily members offers its services
to the body on a part-time basis, nor do we tend to share body parts between two
or more bodies! In the spiritual body, one cannot have part-time status, nor can
one claim membership in more than one body. Our natural bodies are discrete
operating organisms; likewise, the body of Christ.
"Our situation in North America today shows the need to use
both belief and belonging in defining our community. We have brothers and
sisters who share our belief system, yet remain outside (either completely alone
or in small factions) for a variety of reasons. Some simply do not want to be
part of a larger group. Some have no sense of community, thinking that their
belief alone suffices to position them within the one body.
"All would become part of the one body if we used belief as
the sole criteria of defining the one body, as we exclude no one from the body
of Christ who shares the same belief system. But can we include those who make
no commitment to belong to one body? If we did, we would have a non-discrete and
vague body. We would have some who claim common belief, but would have no
commitment to a single community, as they would claim freedom to join in
fellowship with others who make no such commitment.
"Therefore, BELIEF alone cannot organize a community. Our
factionization proves that. So many do share the same hope -- but remain apart
because they have no sense of BELONGING. Many brothers and sisters lament the
thought of excluding anyone of like faith, but what can we do if someone shares
our faith but not our commitment to one body? If one does not commit to
belonging to one body, that individual must bear his or her own conscience on
"I would like to reinforce George's thesis: to constitute a
body, each member must commit to belonging to each other. This principle has
wider application than just settling 'fellowship' issues. Commitment to
belonging to one worldwide community undergirds all our cooperative service,
mutual edification, and outreach. On these two principles -- BELIEF and
BELONGING -- hang the integrity of the body of Christ."