"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What's the Point?

I watched Beauty and the Beast today - once upon a time it was my favorite movie.  Even now, I love the song "Be Our Guest," where Lumiere (the French candlestick) says, "Life is so unnerving, for a servant who's not serving."

Much has been said about spiritual gifts, the teaching that each Christian is given a particular ability by God:
"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
I have yet to figure out my spiritual gift.  I remember a quiz we took in youth group years ago, where we added up our score to determine our primary spiritual gift.  Being the sentimental packrat I am, I think I still have that score sheet somewhere, but I have long forgotten the results.

More recently I've heard about the importance of the different spiritual gifts, but I haven't taken the time to determine my own.  To be honest, I read the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 the other day without even slowing down to consider it.

But then I immediately came to 1 Corinthians 13 - the love chapter.  Like many of you, I've read it countless times, even memorized it.  But for the first time, I noticed something familiar:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Did you catch it?  Read it again, with the list of spiritual gifts in mind.  Right after he finishes teaching about spiritual gifts, Paul starts talking about love.  He opens the "love chapter" by rephrasing the spiritual gifts he just talked about.

The "tongues of men and angels"?  That sounds like the gift of speaking in tongues - he just mentioned it a few verses earlier.

And "prophetic powers" would be the gift of prophecy, right?

Understanding "all mysteries and all knowledge" reminds me of the gift of teaching.

"All faith, so as to remove mountains" sounds like the gift of miracles.

And on it goes.  Paul tells us that, no matter what spiritual gift we have, if we don't use it in love, we may as well not have the gift in the first place.

But Paul continues.  "Let all things be done for building up" (1 Corinthians 14:26).  And what builds up?
"This 'knowledge' puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1).
What builds up?  Love.

I still couldn't tell you my spiritual gift, because I don't know what it is.  Maybe I should.

Life can be unnerving for a servant who's not serving.  But perhaps it is even worse for a servant who is serving, using his gift - but not in love.  Even if I were to find out my spiritual gift tomorrow, what matters is whether I'm doing whatever I'm doing in love - and to build up the church.
If I know my spiritual gift and use it every chance I get, but not in love, without building up the church...what's the point?

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