By Dr. Jannette Morrow
Today’s online dictionaries describe a body of work as the “entire, or a substantive part” of a person’s “creative or academic output.” But what is Jesus’ “body of work”? It would, of course, include his teaching and miracles during his three-and-a-half-year ministry, but that is not the entirety of his work. Jesus’ body of work also consists of the “Body of Christ.” People who (as we define in this study), from the original disciples until now, believe(d) that God sent Jesus Christ and followed his way of life. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, live(d) out the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. Like individual proteges of Jesus, Jesus’ body of believers has grown in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man, but on a global scale from the first century up to today.
Wisdom is the positive and practical outworking of knowledge, and for Jesus’ body, it is the knowledge of God and his word that Jesus has made available to those who follow him. Consider the bold and courageous actions of the original disciples, the reproduction of their original biblical writings, and the Bible commentaries that have help readers understand and apply biblical teaching. Then there is the teaching and preaching of the word from then until now — not the twisted versions perpetrated by those who used Christianity and the Bible for their advantage, but faithful accounts of God’s truths as written. We would have to include artists who represented the Bible series as they understood them, from the artists who created stained glass windows to teach persons who could not read and earliest medieval paintings to more modern artists like Henry O. Tanner. Add to this today’s liturgical dancers, theater, Christian literature, and music from Mozart’s “Ode to Joy” to Christian Rap and all truly God-honoring music and art before and in-between. We would also have to include the work of scientists, who, contrary to popular belief, saw (and see) no conflict between the laws of an all-knowing God and scientific laws.
Stature for Jesus’ body believers is integrity in all areas of life, including caring for our bodies and integrity in marital faithfulness. The laws that have a foundation in the Bible command us to walk in integrity and honest stewardship over monetary and natural resources. Stature includes a work ethic that helps to earn and care for those resources.
The Favor of God is demonstrated by Jesus’ body of believers, as they live out the Great Commandment and Great commission that Jesus taught. These are people who consistently walk in love, forgiveness, and godly servanthood, regardless of whether they are high-rank leaders or those who the world would consider “nobodies.” Those who strive to avoid belittling or playing up to people but agape love others as God has loved them.
Lastly, Favor with Man is the outworking of this law of love. We see in organizations such as the Salvation Army, the more modern International Justice Mission, and all charities like them. The creation of hospitals, the idea of educating the children of poor and working-class people, women’s and children’s rights, and the iconic notion that all men (and women) were created equal. Overall, it is the general idea that Jesus’ body gladly shows practical love and mercy and empathy and respect to persons outside of their families, social, ethnic, or otherwise “tribal” group with no strings attached.
As proteges, we must admit that these systems and ideas have been, and often still are, faulty because of sin, implicit and explicit biases, pride, selfishness, and fears that sometimes plague even genuine members of Jesus’ body of believers. And we cannot deny that much evil has caused harm by people who may have been members of the institutional church but lived a superficial Christianity intending to feed their lust of the flesh to and pride of life. Yet despite this, the good work of Jesus’ Proteges continues to show that Jesus the most influential human being and force for love, and justice good whoever walked the earth.
By Dr. Jannette A. Morrow