Spiritual Gifts and unity
Let’s face it, we are selfish. Even in the gifting, we are like kids sometimes who are jealous that we don’t get the cool gifts that other kids get. This is the case with the Corinthians. I point you to the last verse. The “Message” version brings out the intent of what he says which I have included in the text below. (“You guys are always clamoring for the best gifts – my paraphrase”). In the original language it is not a command but an observation of what their practice is. The last few questions are rhetorical to prove that point. Paul wrote this whole chapter to correct their improper use of the gifts so that he can show them a better way – love, rather than striving for the more prominent gifts. But what can we take home from this passage if it is not about gifting?
One Body, Many Parts
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (the “Message” version translates this last verse in the indicative mood – “And yet some of you keep competing for so-called important parts”.) And now I will show you the most excellent way.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who Are You Lord?
I AM the God who created the gifts. The gifts reflect who I AM and what I am like and come from my being. If my body is to function properly among you to do my supernatural work on earth, you will need all of my power and gifting to do it through you. I am not asking you do conjure up the power, the ability, the whereabouts to “do my work”, no, I ask you to let my spirit enable, gift, empower, and perform through you as you abide in me. As you receive invitations to be involved in the church on earth, allow my Spirit to use you in the areas I have gifted you in. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Find ways to use the motivations and gifts I have given you for the common good of the body.
Harmony not multiple melodies glorifies God
On the mission field we need many different kinds of people to come over and work with us. Many of them come with a variety of differing gifts. Most people who come overseas have strong personalities and confident in their calling and gifting. All too often when you put multiple strong personalities together, you have differences of opinion which cause sparks. When we do not know how to blend our gifting with others, every decision can become a battle of pride and obstinacy. This is why this passage is so important. To use a musical illustration, these next chapters point us as a church to make beautiful harmony within the body of Christ which is much more pleasant on the ear than just a number of different notes, each beautiful in themselves but played in a haphazard, disjointed fashion like a two year old hammering on a keyboard, or a bunch of simultaneous competing melodies (I.e. we live next door to two loud churches with coinciding worship times), which is not very easy on the ear.
The bottom line for today is that when I realize that God put me together with other members of the body of Christ it is for unity in our diversity that honors him when we live at peace together. If I do not acknowledge the spirit’s gifting in others, I in essence say to them by my attitude, that God cannot use them here. Am I actually willing to say that to someone? No. God placed them here and gave them the Holy Spirit just as he did me. God called them and gifted them just as he did me. I have got to get over myself and allow their gifts to be a blessing along with mine, and hopefully they will think the same of me.
More to come,