Editor's note:

Few things are worse than when envy, contention, and anger worm their way into the fellowship and peace of Christ’s followers. John Chrysostom offers some interesting reminders on why unity of the body of believers is so important in today’s piece. He cautions those who are “heads” not to look down upon those who are “feet,” nor for feet to look with envy upon heads—but for all parts of Christ’s Body to work in harmony, each to its own particular perfection.

—Renovaré Team

Now what is this one body? The faithful throughout the whole world, both which are, and which have been, and which shall be. And again, they that before Christ’s coming pleased God, are one body. How so? Because they also knew Christ. Whence does this appear? Your father Abraham, says He, rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56). And again, If you had believed Moses, He says, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me (John 5:46). And the prophets too would not have written of One, of whom they knew not what they said; whereas they both knew Him, and worshipped Him. Thus then were they also one body.

The body is not disjoined from the spirit, for then would it not be a body. Thus it is customary also with us, touching things which are united, and which have any great consistency or coherence, to say, they are one body. And thus again, touching union, we take that to be a body which is under one head. If there be one head, then is there one body. The body is composed of members both honorable and dishonorable. Only the greater is not to rise up even against the meanest, nor this latter to envy the other. They do not all indeed contribute the same share, but severally according to the proportion of need. And forasmuch as all are formed for necessary and for different purposes, all are of equal honor. … 

Now why am I saying this? There are great numbers in the Church; there are those who, like the head, are raised up to a height; who, like the eyes that are in the head, survey heavenly things, who stand far aloof from the earth, and have nothing in common with it, while others occupy the rank of feet, and tread upon the earth; of healthy feet indeed, for to tread upon the earth is no crime in feet … Neither then let these, the head, says he, be high-minded against the feet, nor the feet look with evil eye at the head. For thus the peculiar beauty of each is destroyed, and the perfectness of its function impeded. And naturally enough; inasmuch as he who lays snares for his neighbor will be laying snares first of all for himself. And should the feet therefore not choose to convey the head anywhere upon its necessary journey, they will at the same time be injuring themselves by their inactivity and sloth. Or again, should the head not choose to take any care of the feet, itself will be the first to sustain the damage. However, those members do not rise up one against the other; it is not likely, for it has been so ordered by nature that they should not. But with man, how is it possible for him not to rise up against man? No one, we know, ever rises up against Angels; since neither do they rise against the Archangels. Nor, on the other hand, can the irrational creatures proudly exalt themselves over us; but where the nature is equal in dignity, and the gift one, and where one has no more than another, how shall this be prevented?

And yet surely these are the very reasons why you ought not to rise up against your neighbors. For if all things are common, and one has nothing more than another, whence this mad folly? We partake of the same nature, partake alike of soul and body, we breathe the same air, we use the same food. Whence this rebellious rising of one against another? …

Well, but I see him, you will say, in the enjoyment of honor, and I am led to jealousy. Why, this is the very thing which has turned all things upside down, which has filled not the world only, but the Church also, with countless troubles. And just as fierce blasts setting in across a calm harbor, render it more dangerous than any rock, or than any strait whatever; so the lust of glory entering in, overturns and confounds everything.

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From John Chrysostom’s Homily 10 on Ephesians, in the public domain via New Advent.org.