Last year, in July I received news that one of my precious friends and inspirational coworkers, Kevin, passed away. At his memorial service, someone had shared that Kevin was a piece of the portrait of Jesus in that he was the kind of person that would go with you. He would walk with you and journey with you and listen to your story. So many of us there shared stories of how Kevin was just…present…he was always there, supporting and serving and loving. I treasured everything that people were saying about Kevin, and one of the statements that stuck with me most after that night was that phrase: “the piece of the portrait of Jesus”.
It’s not something we think about often, being a piece of the portrait of Jesus. It is written multiple times in the Bible that we are the body of Christ. If that is true, then each of us makes up a part of the body of Christ–pieces of the portrait of Jesus that we reflect to the world. We all knew Kevin was someone that would “go with you”. So it makes me wonder…what piece am I? What part of Christ do I portray to the world? I was not created by chance–as I mentioned before, God had preconceived my creation long before my parents even thought to have a child. So here I am asking, “What role do I play in all of this?”
Given that I’m pursuing Physical Therapy, and in that aspiration I have a deep fascination with the human body, I took this phrase in a literal physical sense. I started thinking, “What if I’m a cell in the body of Christ?” Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man. That 100% is absolutely, purely, unadulteratedly God. It was His identity before coming down into the world. But the body, His flesh–that was as physical and tangible and biological as we are. So if we’re thinking on the cellular level, we each can hold a very particular place in the body.
The body is made up of systems, the systems of organs, the organs of tissues, and the tissues of individual cells. A cell cannot do its job by itself, it has to work with the other cells, tissues, organs, and systems of the body to maintain its own function and to help the other cells around it to function properly. Each is served by the other and in turn serves another to continue life within the human body. It’s an intricate and convoluted masterpiece that works incredibly at its prime. And even when parts of it aren’t functioning at its optimal potential, it’s still astounding. But I digress.
Try to join me on this analogy.
The immune system. It’s made up of leukocytes. Leukocytes fight off illnesses and protect the other cells and tissues, organs and systems from any harmful factor to the body. They work together to destroy the detrimental invader. They get down to the nitty gritty to protect quality of life. It seems rather obvious to me, but if I had to choose a type of person that best fits this description, they would be the people in the health professions. The human versions of leukocytes are the nurses and doctors and medical researchers and surgeons and anyone who aids in those services, regardless of location inside an elite hospital or in the open, rural regions. It’s not limited to career, it could just be in one’s character, but it was the first concrete example that came to mind.
There’s also the cardiovascular system, bringing oxygen and nourishment to the other tissues and carrying out any toxins to be expelled from the body. These are the people who feed others, physically or spiritually, and can help others get rid of the negative influences on their lives. Or maybe they’re the respiratory system, there to help take a deep breath, slow down, and bring calm and rhythm back to the body. I can imagine these people being those special counselors, mentors, and coaches.
Others are a part of the digestive system, breaking down the daily bread, the Word of God. To present to the rest of the body the fundamental nutrients of God’s will. Maybe these could be our speakers, pastors, leaders. Maybe they’re a part of the urinary system, to filter out what’s unnecessary and retain what is valuable and virtuous. These could be the leaders on a grander scale, like the media or corporate world.
Some could be the neurons that propagate these action potentials of ministry with ideas, or recalling the ministries and experiences of our past. These are our movers in the society, those starting new ministries or charities or anything to change the world or a piece of the world for the better. Maybe some are the muscle cells to strengthen the body. Or the skeletal cells to support the body and hold it upright to function at its best. Maybe we’re the cells of the skin to protect. Or the cells that make up the hands to offer services and lift people up. Or of the feet to journey with people. Maybe we’re the cells of the tongue to speak words of encouragement or wisdom. Or the eyes to help bring clarity or to see those who are marginalized. Or the ears to hear and listen to stories of others.
The list goes on and on.
As I mentioned before, I don’t believe that each of us is limited to one particular cellular function. The analogy is not meant to categorize each profession into a particular purpose or claim that it’s restricted only to careers. I believe that each of us have within us myriad combinations of ways that we can portray Jesus. These functions are a part of our character–and sometimes, our professions fall in suit of that cellular function. It’s not meant to be complicated, just to propose an idea.
We’re all pieces of the portrait of Jesus and it makes me wonder what I am–what part I play. And the whole notion doesn’t have to be viewed only on a cellular level. That’s just my mind wandering free because God has grown me to think in terms of human anatomy and physiology. But my perspective only is only one of the marvelous ways that Jesus reveals Himself to us.
I hope and pray that God continues to refine in you your piece in the portrait of Jesus. In this, you can live out that legacy knowing this purpose past your identity, the one of being a part of the body of Christ. I hope that you’re able to live out your legacy and can join forces with the other members of Christ’s body. That we could all live this purpose as we’re seeking, learning, growing, loving, and serving. As we’re just…living life. I hope and pray that God reveals to you this eternal purpose, meant particularly for you.
Kevin was someone that would go with you. A mixture of the feet, the hands, the ears and the tongue (and many others, but I’m already over my typical word count). I don’t know what my piece is yet, but I’m on my way to discovering my part to play at such a time as this.
Joy and purpose unto you.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27, NIV)