1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
I was listening to a Lutheran Hour podcast this morning on the topic of spiritual gifts. More to the point it was about HOW we use the gifts we are given. I think it’s an important point.
The above is a passage from scripture that is usually used at weddings. However, I don’t think the message is solely related to the marital relationship. It’s about our relationship with our families, our communities and the world.
The pastor in the podcast gave an analogy of a talented orchestra getting ready to play in a wonderful concert hall and the eager audience awaiting the sound of beautiful music. The conductor raises his baton and the orchestra members begin to play….each their own tune. Talk about resounding gongs and clanging cymbals! The pastor likened the noise created to having your head place inside a paint mixer. Ouch!
So, we are given gifts to be used to express the love of Christ. As the people of Corinth who needed this letter most of us at times lose site of what our talents are to be used for. We use them for our own benefit and forget that there is an “audience” out there looking for some beautiful music in a world drowning in a cacophony of sound. We also forget that our gift is meant to be used as an expression of love.
Our world today has placed a higher value on the actor’s gift in a big blockbuster movie than on the firefighter who saves lives. Note: this is not a condemnation of wealth it’s just to point out where our priorities seem to be.
It seems to me that when I said we need a common language what I could have also added is that we need to create that music that people will truly hear. I believe one of the bigger issues we need to unite on is the concept of “social justice” as it is used in churches where a Marxist philosophy has taken root. There are gifted people creating music that people long to hear, or, what their “itching ears” WANT to hear.
When one says that “social justice” is not a Christian principle, of course, you get folks who will come back with “it’s what Jesus would do.” Well, just because you say it’s what He would do doesn’t make it true. You have to look closely and decide for yourself.
One of the biggest points made by the social justice crew is that of re-distribution of wealth and, of course, they use the passage where Jesus asks the rich young man to give up all he has and follow him to back up their theories and actions. What they fail to acknowledge is that Christ knew some wealthy people and did not ask all of them to do the same. If you read the passage carefully you will find that Christ asked this particular young man to do this because He saw what was in the man’s heart. He knew this man’s wealth was standing between him and God. It wasn’t an attempt to re-distribute wealth. It was an attempt to bring the man closer to God.
Another strategy is to point out that Christ would be accepting of all sorts of behaviors He did not SPECIFICALLY warn against. That, if we determine that a behavior or action is goes against what God wants for us we are somehow being “extreme” in our interpretations. If you take the example of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, he pointed out to her in a loving way the fact that the way she was living her life was not making her happy. Her lifestyle was hurting not only her, but others. And, as with other situations similar to this, He ends with “go and sin no more.” That’s the part that often gets conveniently omitted. Christ did not “accept” her decisions on how she lived her life, He pointed out that it was not what God wanted for her and let her decide.
And that brings us to the “individual” vs “collective” salvation discussion. Individual salvation says it’s your personal relationship with God that is at issue and subsequently your individual salvation. Collective salvation says that unless everyone is “saved” no one is saved. This salvation they refer to is not truly tied to the concept of Grace. To paraphrase Rev. Sharpton’s interpretation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Dream”: The dream isn’t attained until everyone has what everyone else has.
So, getting back to my original point, how we use our gifts is important. We need to use our gifts to give God’s message to the world. And, we need to do this in a way that does not make us the focus, but makes the message the focus. And, finally, we need to do it in a manner that keeps love an integral part of our actions. That means we are kind , we do not rejoice in others’ failures, we continue to hope, and we continue to seek the truth.
Ultimately that means that we do not post insulting comments in social media, we do not celebrate the discovery of someone’s weaknesses and failures, we continue to seek truth and we continue to use the gifts God has given us to bring that truth to the world.