Commonality Within Diversity
When I went to Paris, I knew I was going to be gone for Hilary’s birthday. In the past 10 years of our marriage, at least 5 times on her birthday something big happened that overshadowed her big day. Twice we moved, twice we were on vacation with my whole family and this time I was in Paris. I knew I wanted to give her something, a gift that would make her feel special somehow. So, I thought long and hard what gift I could give that would be meaningful as well as display to her how I felt about her. So, I decided to write a letter for every day I was gone and to get one of her good friends to buy and deliver flowers to her from me on her birthday. I poured thought, love and time into my gifts to her, not just so that she would know she’s loved, but to display her importance to me as well. I wasn’t just giving her a gift for the sake of giving a gift. I desired to show Hilary something with my gift. I wanted her to know I was thinking of her. I wanted to display her importance to me as well as my love to her.
We are always desiring to show something as well as tell something when we give gifts. God is the very same. When God gives gifts, He’s revealing a part of Himself. The spiritual gifts are no different. He is telling us something with the gifts. The gifts are good and to be used, but there is intentionality in what God does. We must seek to find what it is he is telling us about Himself. This is part of the last sermon- of seeking the giver and not simply the gifts
Many times, we see a gift we jump into using it rather than seeking to know why it was given or what the person giving it was trying to say. Gifts are an expression of the heart. They are given in love to display something to the person receiving the gift. With this in mind, as we look at the Spiritual gifts we must ask: What does God desire to show through the gifts? These passages set the stage for why we have spiritual gifts. God’s revelation is an instruction on how to use them as well as why we use our gifts. The first thing Paul says is that:
- He Desires to Display His Diversity (vs. 4-6)
God is a multi-facetted being. His depth and breadth are larger than the ocean. He is uncontainable, yet he displays Himself to us so we can better know Him. Paul used a familiar format with the triad description Spirit/Lord/God to tell of God’s Trinitarian existence. He within Himself is diverse. He is in fact three in one. Paul even displayed the diversification of workings of each aspect of the trinity; Gifts-Spirit, service-Lord and activities- God. Paul is stating that there are diverse gifts because God is diverse. Marion Soards, the commentator said: “Diversity in the human sphere exists, relates to, and is unified by unity in the sphere of the divine.” You and I can only know diversity because God is diverse. We are created in His image and so there is diversity among us simply because that is who He is. God gives multi-faceted gifts for us to see that He is multi-faceted. We need to engage diversity in order to experience the totality of God.
This isn’t just in the diversity of gifts either. This is true across racial divides as well. Remember, Paul was writing to a very racially divided church. They had their Jewish sections and their Gentile sections. Paul was not simply uncovering the diversity of God simply for the gifts, but to show that in order to catch the fullness of God, we must embrace the fullness of His image.
Joseph and I were talking this past Tuesday about our brokenness over the racial divide in our country. This year has been chock full of deaths over race. This year has been a heated discussion on race due to the hotheaded nature of this election cycle. Our nation is on the brink of war because there is fear of diversity. All men are created in the image of God. If we hate a man, we are also hating a facet of God’s image. We are becoming judge and jury of what facets of God’s image are and are not acceptable. Again, In order to get a glimpse God’s true nature, we must embrace the fullness of His image. This means embracing diversity of gifts and people.cGod is passionate about diversity. In the gifts, He deeply desires for us to use and express them in and by diversity.
2. He Desires to Display our Commonality within Diversity (vs. 4-6)
Paul states we all share in these verses the same Spirit, Lord and God. Those of us who believe in Christ are unified. We are one family, with one Father. In the midst of our diversity, we have commonality. Women, men, black, white, old, young, catholic, protestant, tall and short under Christ are one. No matter our looks or our gifts, we are all one family. God desires to remind us of our commonality. He also wants us to realize our gifts are empowered by Him and Him alone. We did not make our gifts anymore than we made our gender or skin color. Those were given to us by Him, as are the gifts of the Spirit. This means, we are all commonly dependent upon Him. If then, we are all dependent upon God, that means no one person, no one gift is greater than another. He is the one who empowers, we are not; He is the giver and enabler. We literally have nothing to do with what we’ve been given. When we see the real view of our need of Him, we quickly realize as believers, we are all in this together.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance (my denomination) was founded with diversity in mind. It was an ecumenical, multi-ethnic movement for the purpose of missions. At the time, there was nothing like it. It was a group of diverse denominations seeking to make a difference in the world. The founder A.B. Simpson even started a college for black and Italian immigrants to get education where other places wouldn’t let them in. It became a school for missionaries with a diverse population of attendees (It is still one of the most diverse Christian schools in the nation). They were a diverse array of spiritually gifted men and women. They believed their diversity in ethnicity, gifting, and denominations made them stronger for the mission God put them on. They understood the reality of “different, but same”.
If the church could wake up, and stop fighting over race, gender, denominationalism and spiritual gifting, we’d be able to be empowered by His Spirit to slay the giant in our midst. We are refusing to embrace our commonality within diversity by not purposefully seeking racial reconciliation. Like I said, this passage goes beyond simply spiritual gifts. We need to seek reconciliation on both spheres. When we recognize our commonality, we will be willing to go beyond ourselves. We will purposefully engage in different styles of worship, both through song and preaching. This is something Joseph and me have been convicted about this and are seeking to make right.cThe gifts are not only for understanding our commonality, but also we are gifted to bless the world, Because:
3. He Desires to Display His Love for the World (vs. 7)
Our gifts and ability to see our commonality is as Paul stated: “…for the common good”. This phrase is not relegated only to the church, but is also for the world. The gifts listed are to bless the church, but also the world. Jonah was a prophet who was told to use his prophetic gift to bring non-Jews to God. In his racism he refused to use his gift for the common good. God was none-to-pleased with his decision. If we refuse to use our gifts for the common good, we are not using them correctly. The world can’t experience God’s love, if His Church isn’t using their gifts for the common good. Using our gifts to bless the world brings people to Christ. The Spirit manifests in our lives, not for ourselves alone, but for the world. It’s like Robert Mulholland said in His book Invitation to a Journey: “Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” The closer we come to Christ, the more we want to bless the world. When we see His heart broken, it will break ours. “For God so loved the world…”. It is His mission and one of the main purposes of pouring out His gifts upon us. They are the gift that is meant to be given away. Take for example the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts. The disciples were given the gift of tongues (which we will talk about in the coming weeks). They were able to present the Gospel in languages they didn’t know. This gift was poured out in order to glorify the name of Jesus and to bring people to His Kingdom. The disciples didn’t use it to propagate themselves, but rather to uplift the name of Christ. We too are to use our gifts not for self promotion, but for the promotion of God’s Kingdom.
God gives good gifts as we discussed two weeks ago. These gifts (which we will unpack starting next week) are given in diversity, granting commonality in the Spirit for the common good. May we seek to use them as they were designed and seek to display that which Chris desires to display through them.