Tuesday, March 27, 2012
It boils down to one thing...
1Cor. 12:31 …. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
The entire section here from Paul is about spiritual gifts. One can imagine that the church is experiencing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the result is that people are experiencing different giftings. However, you can also imagine that these people were very proud of their giftings and enjoyed boasting and comparing their gifts over and against the gifts of others. Obviously they thought that some people were better than others; that some spiritual gifts were better than others. In an effort to deal with this concern Paul goes through a lengthy response as he deals with these different gifts and how they relate to one another in the body of Christ, but when he gets through with this explanation, he changes tone on them. Yes, maybe you think these are really important issues BUT -- now I'm going to show you a way that is even better! And this becomes the bridge to the next chapter, the great love chapter. Paul is telling them that all the things that they bother talking and bickering about are nothing compared to love.
This portion of scripture is targeted at those who are already followers of Christ. Paul is concerned that followers of Christ get distracted and allow disagreements and arguments over what I think he considered petty issues to become destructive to the life of the church. He wanted the people to understand that the Holy Spirit was being poured out on all of them, but that the result would not be the same. Some were going to be leaders, some were going to be followers, some would be preachers, others would be teachers….and in the midst of it all he mentions again that the playing field has been leveled by the Holy Spirit. There is no distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free….we are all one in the Spirit.
On a human level we get hung up on things that simply aren't that important from a kingdom perspective. From God's perspective one person isn't better than another; one person's gifting isn't better than another. When we begin to go in that direction, we get called on the carpet by Paul. We get hung up on these issues when we don't focus on the main thing -- and that is getting to know Christ. Our calling as followers of Christ is to get to know him and to become partakers of his divine nature. And that is exactly what Paul is leading us to in this scripture today. He's saying, "Folks, you just don't get it!" It's not about gifts from God -- it's about knowing God, and that's why the next chapter fills us with a deeper understanding of love. Love is the very divine nature of God. If we participate in God, we become partakers of his divine nature, which is love. The human bickering and concerns disappear in light of participating in God's nature. This is the more excellent way. Paul can lecture them about how things ought to be in the kingdom, but until they experience God -- they won't get it.
Where do we find ourselves in this story? Are we with the folks in Corinth who are hung up on the details -- who does what -- what gifting do you have, etc.? Or, are we driven on to the more excellent way, putting those other things behind us and getting to know Christ on an incredibly intimate level. That is the more excellent way.
Lord, please help me not to get hung up on the details, but to get to know you and participate in your holy love. Amen.