A dental lesson for the church

Published 10:31 pm Thursday, May 30, 2013

By Myrtle Virginia Thompson

It was a newspaper ad, written by my dentist, that added to the thinking I had been doing about the church:

“The reality is that our teeth are designed not to function as individual units, but rather as a complete set of upper teeth against a complete set of lower teeth…. When you lose a tooth, the teeth on either side of the space end up with excessive forces on them…. Many of us don’t know how good we have it until we lose it.”

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How are the Christian church and individual Christians like teeth? All it takes is a toothache to understand the comparision!

Paul, the apostle, writes in 1 Corinthians 12: 26 and 28, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers….”

The comparison Paul is making is of the physical body to the church as a body. He says every part is important and that one part of the body cannot act independently of another, nor can one part dismiss as unnecessary any other part of the body. The subject is unity.

If unity in the mouth is important, how much more important is unity in the body of Christ, the church? And yet we often have disunity, with one member angry or disgruntled because the other members do not respond as that person does, or worse, dropping out (the pulled-tooth syndrome), because the person felt no need — never found a place — in the church.

Just as each tooth is needed in the mouth, so is each person who comes to Christ needed in the church. While the mouth will compensate for lost teeth, the bit is thrown off.

When the church loses a member through disinterest or spiritual decay, it will attempt to compensate, but its “bite” is also “thrown off,” and the whole body of Christ is weakened.

The greater loss, however, is to ourselves, and even more so, to the Christ who gave us a commission to preach and teach the Gospel to the whole world. We have never fulfilled that Great Commission.

The real need of the church today is a good set of “spiritual teeth” so as to be able to take a good bite out of the immorality, the sin and the human needs that are besetting us on every hand.

The good dentist says, “Many of us don’t know how good we have until we lose it.”

Will the church be lost in America, as it has been in many other countries, because our spiritual teeth are missing? What a tragedy that would be!

Myrtle Virginia Thompson lives in Suffolk. Email her at mvtgrt@gmail.com.