Sometimes we need to look at a section of Scripture and see its big picture message, not losing sight of the forest for the trees. At first glance, it might be tempting to question whether tongues and prophecy are for today, or not. But, please keep in mind that this was not Paul’s driving concern when he wrote to the Corinthians. Paul wanted the Corinthians, who were into puffing themselves up like peacocks so that others would admire their gifts and abilities, to get a basic important message which is found at the beginning and the end of our New Testament lesson for today: “Pursue love…. strive to excel in building up the church.”
There you have it. If we miss this, we have lost sight of God’s Word to us. We are not to be pre-occupied with tongues and prophecy, but to keep thinking about how we show love to all our brothers and sisters in Christ and to put some significant effort into doing our part to build up others. Love and encouragement are focused toward other people, and are not inwardly directed. God has gifted us for love and the building up of the church. I am a teacher of God’s Word. It would be really weird if I got up Sunday morning, got dressed, looked in the mirror and taught at myself, then when back to bed dreaming about what a great teacher I am. Spiritual gifts are meant to be unpacked for the church.
One of the great temptations of humanity is to finagle our efforts so that other people will notice and give props to our wonderful work. Indeed, we can write Facebook messages to garner as many “likes” as we can get; post things on Twitter and our favorite blogs hoping to look smart and funny in the eyes of a community of people we may not even know personally; and, to withhold our love to actual people right in front our faces because they may not give to us the attention we crave.
Perhaps with Lent coming in just a few weeks, you might want to consider a fast from social media in order to better connect with people within your direct sphere of human touch and influence. Or maybe ask someone close to you what they believe your primary spiritual gifts are, with the expressed intention of using the information to explore fresh avenues of love and service to others. Whatever you do, pursue love and excel in building up the church.
Loving God, you have graciously gifted us all for love and service. May I continually see your love expressed to me through Jesus Christ so that I will be always inspired to pass on that same love to others for whom you also love. Amen.