Basic Principles for the Service in the Church Life, by Witness Lee


Giving Up the Self

Let us consider the practical steps to realizing the Body life. If we are going to practice and realize the Body life, we first must give up our self. The word self is a small word, but it is a practical issue. In order to realize the Body life, we must always remember to give up our self, self-seeking, self-centeredness, self-opinion, self-intention, and self-exaltation. If we bring in even a small amount of self, we bring a cancer into the Body. There is no need for us to do anything more serious; to bring in only a small amount of self is enough for the enemy to damage the Body. This is why we have said that the first item of the spiritual “charter” of the church is the cross. The cross must check our self.

I do know what I am saying. What I am speaking is not a lecture; rather, I am pointing out the practical steps to realizing the Body. If we intend to practice the real Body life, we must be one hundred percent careful concerning the self. The first thing which damages the Body life so much is the self. The things of the self are the little foxes which ruin the vineyards when they are in blossom (S. S. 2:15). We may say, “I have not done anything wrong. My intention toward the church is good.” This may be true, but a little thing within us—the self—damages the Body. It is not necessary to have a big thing to damage the Body; even a little thing damages it. A small mote can damage the eye, and when the eye is damaged, the whole body cannot work. It is the same with the self.

Losing Our Independence

Second, we must lose our independence. To practice the church life we must learn never to be independent. There is no independence in the Body life; there is only dependence. None of the members of our body can be independent. Independence simply means death for the Body and death for the members. We should look at this matter not doctrinally but very practically. This is a vital matter, a matter of life and death. For a hand to declare independence means death for it.

You may say that you are not independent, that you are a dependent member of the Body. However, I wish to ask in a practical rather than doctrinal way: To whom are you related? If we ask a finger, it will say it is related to the hand and to the other fingers, and if we ask the hand, it will say it is related to the arm. These members can point out to whom they are related. However, one may be a good brother with everyone’s acclaim, but he may not be able to point out to whom he is related. He is good to every brother and sister, but he is independent of everyone and related to no one.

It is wrong to form a party with someone because we have the same opinion. This is sectarian, and it causes division upon division. However, in the church we must be related to someone. This proves we are not independent. To be related to a few saints without forming a party is a hard lesson to learn. It is easy to not be related, and it is even easier to be related with others to form a party. Two brothers may often come together, and it may seem that they are of one mind and can easily pray together. If one says, “Hallelujah,” the other says, “Amen,” and if the other says, “Hallelujah,” the first one says, “Praise the Lord!” They may seem to be of one mind, but this may not be the proper relatedness. Rather, it may be a party, a sect, a division with a sectarian spirit. This is wrong.

Still, as members in the church we must be related to someone or ones. All the brothers and sisters must be related one with another. If we say that we are practicing the church life, we must lose and give up our independence. The independent living must be one hundred percent given up.

Try to check yourself as to whom you are related. If you check with me, I would say that I am related with many saints locally and even more universally. On the negative side, if any of them would express even a little that they do not agree with what I am doing, I would stop right away and go along with them. On the positive side, what I do is confirmed and sealed by them. They are one with me in the spirit, and they may say, “Okay, brother, go ahead; we are with you one hundred percent.” Here is a real, practical, and serious lesson for us to learn. Without this, there is no possibility to realize the Body life. If we still have our independence, we may be very nice to one another, but we can never realize the Body life among us.

(Basic Principles for the Service in the Church Life, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)