I started a new series in my Sunday School class a few weeks ago on spiritual gifts. We are taking a look at the main passages that deal with the gifts and then looking at each gift individually. I was excited to get started because I've been wanting to study this subject in depth for a while.
Interestingly, what has struck me is not the gifts, but Paul's (and Peter's too) emphasis on unity and love among the body of Christ - and keep in mind by body, Paul is referring to ALL believers around the entire globe, not just a particular church.
Hmm. Not what I was expecting really. I was expecting to learn about the gifts and how they can be used, but over and over again Paul stresses that we are all one body, that we are ONE, that when we use our gifts, it is for the good of everyone and should be done in love.
In fact, all those wedding ceremonies you've been to aside, the I Corinthians 13 "love chapter" is not really about marriage at all (although it can certainly be used in that context since ALL believers should treat each other with this kind of love, including the ones who are married to each other!). It's about how we are to love each other within the body of Christ. Paul also brings up the fact that how we treat each other shows the outside world that we are believers.
One thing I've been finding out as I study the spiritual gifts, is that it seems to be a source of division among believers. People don't get too upset about things like mercy or helping or service, but they sure get their knickers in a twist over things like apostleship, prophecy and healing. Don't even get me started on the ugliness a discussion of the gift of tongues might cause!
The thing is though, spiritual gifts are supposed to bring us together, to give each of us a place and way to serve within the body that is unique. Unlike a lot of exclusive clubs, believers aren't necessarily encouraged in Scripture to be carbon copies of each other. We are encouraged to be who God created us to be and to use our unique talents and gifts for HIS GLORY.
In I Corinthians 12, Paul starts out by saying he doesn't want the believers to be ignorant concerning gifts, but before he gets into the nitty gritty of what those are and how they function, he emphasizes that using spiritual gifts isn't going to look the same for everyone.
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings (effects), but the same God works all of them in all men." I Cor. 12:4-6
So, in other words, we have different gifts (which the Holy Spirit dispenses, btw)and those gifts can be used in different ways with different results. Lots of room for all kinds of personalities and styles, isn't there? We don't all have to look and act exactly alike.
Yet, do we give each other this freedom? Unfortunately, many times the answer is "no." For whatever reason, human beings tend toward the homogeneous. They tend to cluster in groups where everyone is just like them and be uncomfortable with people who aren't. While this is a natural tendency for all people, God often calls us to go against our natural inclinations, and this is one of those times.
We may not agree about a specific gift and how it is used these days, but that doesn't mean we can't love each other. It doesn't mean that we have to cluster into our own groups and create a huge canyon between fellow believers that you cross at your own peril.
Now before you think I'm advocating a "one world church," or saying that it doesn't matter what you believe since we are all going to heaven anyway - rest assured, I'm not! The Bible is very clear about how people get to heaven - "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
But there are doctrinal issues that are crucial for salvation, and there are other things, while they are important, are less crucial and shouldn't cause division.
If we know what we believe and why we believe it, we can be less defensive if a brother or sister in Christ doesn't exactly line up with that. We can have the confidence to agree to disagree without division or disunity.
After all, it really isn't about us, is it?
~ Blessings, Bronte