30 November, 2008

The Body of Christ

I was reading in Scientific American today about HSPs - Heat Shock Proteins.

The Wikipedia article is pretty technical, and the SciAm article is only slightly less so. I'll save you the trouble of reading them and then jump to how it amazed me again at what the body of Christ truly is.

An HSP is charged with helping other proteins do their jobs. There are proteins specific to every cancer cell. The HSP cannot fight cancer, that's the job of our T-cells, but it can snag a little signature of that protein and take it to a T-cell, for example. Another protein might need to be folded up like a pretzel to work, and be having a hard time growing into its mature shape. HSPs make that folding happen. They can't do what the protein needs to do, but they can help that protein get itself folded into the right shape.

(And, BTW, to enhance the benefits of HSPs in your mortal body, exercise. Their rate of production is increased under sufficient stress, and heating up your core temp with exercise does the trick, according to a SciAm side-blurb. I'd love to think of how that applies to Christ's body, but not today.)

Everything the body does, every single little thing from digesting food to fighting disease to kissing a baby on the forehead, requires the interaction of millions of entire subsystems. Even something as simple as a bone cannot do its job without systems on top of systems and within systems. And what's more, almost everything in the body does more than one thing. It does its thing, but it makes sure other things can do their thing, too.

The finite but immeasurable complexity of our Creator's work astounds.

The connection between our bodies and the body of Christ is almost unavoidable, so I'm not going to belabor it. The least, most hidden member of the body, when functioning correctly, could be that perfectly tailored HSP for someone. Without ever being able to fight off a cancer, the quietest soul in a congregation might touch someone in a special way that makes him confident enough to resist evil. We need each other in ways we cannot begin to imagine.

And that's what I want to belabor.

We just found out about HSPs in fruit flies in 1962. It was 1977 before anyone realized that what happens in a fruit fly happens in mice, too. It was another pair of decades before they began to see just how remarkably versatile the lowly HSP really is. I could rattle off story after story of science's amazing discoveries that things they considered completely unimportant are actually keys to our very existence.

It turns out HSPs have one other little function. It's of some moderate importance, I imagine.

HSPs keep us from being mutated genetic freaks.


Micro-evolution happens every day of our lives, in every living being, and every living species. Most mutations are highly negative, but somehow we don't die. That somehow is tied to these HSPs. No has figured out just how yet, but somehow HSPs buffer and suppress poor genetic guesses in our bodies. It's these lowly, unknown, functionless HSPs that keep us from spinning out of control.

Again, the parallel to the body of Christ is amazing. Think of it the next time that bunch of old ladies in the corner is keeping the church from doing something that would otherwise be really exciting. They may just be keeping your church from mutating beyond repair. :-)

Here's the thing that floored me. Scientists are only just now beginning to see how very complex the human body really is, but I think they might be light-years ahead of Christians who think they have an idea how the body of Christ works.

I've done home church. I've done pentacostal revival. I've done presbyterian accuracy. I've done random gathering. And EVERY ONE OF THEM has profited me. I've been blessed by the body of Christ every time I've joined myself to her, in every form.

I've argued with passion that every church building should be burnt to the ground and that every pastor should be made to get a real job. I've argued for the freeing of every member of the body to serve their function, without mediation by some hierarchy. And I've argued for one hierarchy over another. And I've argued against the anarchy of home church. (No, these are not in chronological order.)

I've arrived, through all this mess, to the place I'm almost unwilling to argue against anything. (I'll still argue for lots of stuff, though. :-) )

The body of Christ is too complex and wonderful for me.

She responds very well to leadership. She responds very well to freedom. She responds very well to anything around which her members can unite, which is to say anything that does not inherently create confusion. And somehow, when placed in swirling confusion, she can create some amazing and beautiful order.

She can also be crushed by leadership. She can also be starved in freedom. She can also fail in the middle of the most unity-centric, ordered care imaginable.

Whatever else she may be, the body of Christ is far, far beyond mortal understanding. I suspect the bio-spiritual dance of the children of the Living God demotes the mystery of HSPs to elementary school levels. And I used to think I had it all on a string in my 20's.


The best I can do is prepare myself to behave properly within her, give my best to her, nourish myself on the purest milk and meat I can find, and then love her wherever I may find her.

Anything else is certainly beyond me.


Kansas Bob said...

I often think that love is the Central Nervous System of the body of Christ because it enables effective communication. I wonder what an HSP would be in that analogy? Encouragement?

Lynne said...

I've never heard of HSPs before (must ask my doctor husband what he knows) but I love the analogy. I immediately think of the faithful little old ladies in our church. as far as I know, they've never done anything spectacular in their lives, yet i haven't a doubt that without their prayers, their quiet words of encouragement and their faithful presence, the church would fall apart very quickly.

Weekend Fisher said...

Every time I think it will all go to h-ll in a handbasket (and wonder, have I taken up basketweaving?), Jesus steps into the picture and it turns out it wasn't quite as bad as I imagined.

Take care & God bless

karen said...

Wow...cool science and God lesson! Creation is indeed an awesome and wonderful thing. Reminds me also of Hebrews. Quantum-y physics in a coupla verses there....

believer333 said...

This is an excellent excellent post.

I wonder if you would be willing to allow the Equality Central Forum to repost it on our blog.

Also the concept of love being the central nervous system is really good too Kansas Bob. The nervous system is the primary mode of transferring information between muscles, organs and brain.

Interesting also, many people think that the brain does all direction alone. In reality, the brain is highly responsive to what is going on in the other systems. As a professional Massage Therapist, sometimes I have to trick the brain to give the right response in order to help heal muscles, nerves, organs and other systems. And in many functions, the brain has nothing to say, such as the healing process. :-)

Fascinating isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Then I must be a "free radical". ;-)

Sorry, couldn't resist. It's in my blood.

believer333 said...

In the grand scheme of life, I think 'free radicals' are necessary also.


Anonymous said...

appreciate the thoughts... on the prior post as well (i'm needing to switch churches and am struggling with the thought of going pca b/c i'm neither a calvinist nor a m-f hierarchalist).