Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
— 1 Corinthians 12:20-23
Paul continued the work of Jesus in having people move away from an individualistic, self-centered approach to faith and towards a collective, other-centredness. Still preaching mostly to the underprivileged it is likely that Paul saw great benefit in community, where the strength of the collective body was greater than the sum of the strengths of each individual. We use similar language today in the corporate world, or in the sporting world, where "team" is the unit of strength, the single body on which to focus. Those work environments where individuals are still rated and ranked against each other have greater employee dissatisfaction, lower engagement, and are both less innovative and less competitive in their markets. It is established beyond doubt that team-based approaches to work are more successful.1
Communities (including teams) need diversity to thrive. It is not enough to have several people all of the same strength, age, ability, or going further the same background, skin colour, gender, sexuality. It is our differences that form community as well as our commonalities, and even the apparently weaker, less able members add something important to the whole. As Paul reminds us, the human body has many parts, and If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?2. If the football team were all strikers, who would defend? Teams of same-people do less well than teams of diverse people, and this is true in business as well as sports.
There is great focus in the business world these days to embrace team diversity, not just in the obvious areas of gender and age, but in the more subtle (and less visible) areas of neurodiversity.3 We know this to be true, and yet our neighbourhoods still tend to favour segregation, with people of different races and nationalities grouping together in particular towns or areas of a city, rich and poor being separated by housing costs, and other more subtle forms of separation, e.g. you'll find more labour voters in the inner city, and more Conservative voters in the suburbs. We're doing well to integrate in the workplace and on the sports field, compared to even fifty years ago. It may be time to address this issue at the societal level, and perhaps create communities of harmony rather than unrest.
1 There is a wealth of business literature on this topic, see for example Enhancing the Effectiveness of Work Groups and Teams by Steve W.J. Kozlowski, Daniel R. Ilgen, 2006
2 1 Corinthians 12:17
3 I wrote about that a few years ago, Rethinking Diversity, 2016