A Pain in the Neck

Ever wonder what part of the body you are? In 1 Corinthians 12:27, Paul tells us that, “all of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” So, which part are you? I have often wondered that; however, just a few days ago, I arrived at my answer. In fact, it just might be your answer, too. If you are a pastor, as I am, you are the neck. Let me explain. The neck has two main functions: to lift and support the head, and to connect the head to the body. Colossians 1:18 clearly tells us Who is the Head. Paul writes, “Christ is also the Head of the church, which is His body…” Not only does Paul tell us that Jesus is the Head, he also tells us that the church is His body. It is the role of the neck to connect the two – body and Head. The first thing the neck must do is to hold the head upright, in its proper position above the body. Paul goes on in that same verse to say that, “He [Christ] is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. It is vitally important that pastors elevate and exalt the Head at all times and in all their actions.

The other critical role of the neck is connecting the Head to the body. If there is one lesson to be learned from Henry the Eighth and his wives, it is that a headless body does not function particularly well (Sleepy Hollow, notwithstanding). The neck passes information back and forth from the head to the body and vice versa. It sends information from nerve endings throughout the body up to the brain. It passes along every ache, pain, and need of the body, so that the brain can act upon it. If the body is hungry, thirsty, in pain, or exhilarated, the neck carries that information to the brain so that it can decide on the proper course of action. It also passes information from the Head to all the extremities of the body so that it operates at full capacity and each part will be cared for, allowing the entire body to function uniformly.

There are two mistakes that we necks should try to avoid. First, we should never try to become the Head. It is our role to keep the Head raised in His position of preeminence over the body. Whenever we try to become the Head, or don’t keep the Head in His rightful place, problems ensue. You might be thinking, “Well, I would never try to take the place of Jesus as Head of the church.” Perhaps… but there are other, more subtle ways that we may make this mistake. We can allow ourselves to begin to take on responsibilities that aren’t ours – to take responsibility for building His church, funding His church, or trying to fill it. Jesus told His church’s first pastor, Peter, “Upon this rock, I will build My church.” It isn’t only pride that will drive us to try to take on the position of the Head; it is also incorrect theology and a misguided sense of responsibility. In the human body, the neck isn’t responsible for life’s decisions. It is simply a conduit between the decision-maker and the body. So should it be for the pastor.

There is a second mistake we can make, which is just as damaging and probably more common. While the neck should never try to function as the Head, it should also never attempt to function as the other parts of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:18, 19 says, “Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Imagine how inefficient your body would be (not to mention ridiculous looking) if you tried to walk on your neck. Yet, isn’t that what many of us try to do? We take on all sorts of tasks which were never part of our assignments. Do you want to know what our assignments are? In Ephesians 4:11, 12, Paul tells us, now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. Just a couple of verses later, Paul tells us what the results will be of us fulfilling our responsibilities to equip the other body parts: “…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the Head of His body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

When our body isn’t functioning correctly, or when the head is out of position, our necks will show the effects. It seems that all of the tension in our lives collects in our neck, doesn’t it? We get knots in the muscles in our necks and sometimes (when our head is out of position for too long) we even get cricks in our necks. As a good masseuse will tell you, work the kinks out of the neck and the entire body will relax. So, here’s to the necks! How about working out a few kinks? It certainly sheds a new light on the phrase, “pain in the neck,” doesn’t it?