I noticed a news item recently that a team of international doctors will attempt a human head transplant. The patient is a Russian man whose body suffers from a debilitating nerve condition, so even a slight improvement may ease his suffering. The medical community debates the chances of success and questions the legality and ethics of a head transplant, but a it does have a theological precedent.
The apostle Paul uses a compound metaphor of the head and body in the book of Ephesians to describe the relationship between Jesus and the church. Jesus is the “head,” and the church is his “body.” This comparison gives the reader a simple and dynamic understanding of Christ’s relationship to the church. According to first-century medical science, the head was not only the source of control, but also gave the body what it needed to thrive. A head needs a body and vice versa. The loss of one’s head equals loss of life and vitality.
Without Christ as our source of authority and provision in the church, we risk being merely another social group with a nice building and catchy music. As we submit to Christ’s authority, we seek His mission and His values for one another. It provides a framework to understand our worth to one another, and to Him. After all, if you stub your little toe, your whole body suffers!
I have my doubts about the medical procedure. It seems to me that the head and body are just too closely connected for the switch to actually work. Theologically, the church must not “lose its head” by focusing on anything other than Christ, the head of the body.