The other day I came across an anecdote concerning a man visiting hell.
People were seated about a table loaded with luscious food, but every one of them was starving to death. The reason was obvious – every person’ elbow was bound with splints so that it was impossible for the people to bend their arms and bring the food to their mouths. The same man visited heaven. The situation was surprisingly the same – a table loaded with food. People seated before it with their elbows bound, but there was one decisive difference – everyone was well fed.
The visitor turned to his guide. “Why,” he asked, “are the people in heaven well fed when they wear the same elbow-binding splints as those in hell?” “Well, my friend,” the guide replied, “here in heaven the people have discovered that even though they cannot bend their elbows to feed themselves, they can with unbending arms feed each other.”
What a fitting metaphor for the church to go along with Paul’s classic “body of believers”. It reminds us of two things. First, humans have a need for one another. And second, we are all wounded and broken and need binding.
The story also points us on to deeper truths. If we truly seek to discover the kingdom of heaven here on earth, Paul’s concept of ‘one another’ [honor one another, be devoted to one another, love one another, live in harmony with one another, etc.] must ring true in our own lives. If not, we run the risk of not only starving ourselves to death, but also everybody whom we come into contact with. We may not be starving to death from lack of food, but from lack of love and grace and mercy. And that is a travesty far worse than death from lack of food.