by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Concerning spiritual gifts, I do not want us to be uninformed. It’s a concern as old as St. Paul, to be sure, yet I say this as one wondering if we haven’t all been a little misled.
It’s not surprising, really, if you think about it. It’s not really surprising if you consider the ways in which we’ve been formed, reformed and conformed to and within this idolatrous monolithic culture. It should not be in the least bit surprising that in such a world as this, we’ve ended up worshipping at the altar of our staunch, unapologetic individualism even as we proclaim (in lowercase letters and hushed voices) that jesus is lord.
We’ve been distracted, to be sure. Arguing about whether it does in fact matter if you love him or capital H-I-M, we’ve not bothered to notice that the god we claim to worship is nothing more than an idol created in our own image. To serve our own needs. To answer our own prayers. To be blamed for our own sufferings. Whose gifts are charms and tokens we’ve amassed along the way.
The problem is not, as some have made out, that we are too conservative or too liberal (by which we simply mean, you are too little like me, and I am right – which is to say, that you have not received the gifts of the spirit).
By this we have proven that when it comes to the gospel, we have not had eyes to see or ears to hear. We have seen without perceiving, listened without hearing.
We have been enticed by the idolatry of hearing ourselves speak.
And yet, and yet, the gifts of God’s Spirit, manifestations of the gospel of Jesus Christ, are just that – gifts. Nothing to be possessed, nothing to be taken for granted. They are not to be collected or hoarded like baseball cards (get the complete set!). There is no one gift to rule them all. And you can’t trade for them, bribe for them, or otherwise force the sprit’s hand (should the spirit, in fact, have such a thing).
The Spirit moves. Oh how she moves. It is that same Spirit who moves in confusing, mysterious ways. And it is this very same spirit who is the source of this variety of gifts. To one is given this, another that.
Yet if this is so, why do we, and why do our churches suggest that some must possess all, or at very least, all must possess some?