Thursday, April 8, 2010

Love vs. Spiritual Gifts

It is not uncommon when speaking of spiritual gifts (and particularly tongues) to have the uninitiated or inexperienced throw up a barricade to their pursuit with a condescending air, "Love is more important, that's what I'm pursuing." The argument may sound good, and make one feel good if he or she doesn't want to wander off into the spookies, but it doesn't hold up biblically and is actually a surefire way to not pursue love.

It is true, according to the scriptures, that nothing is more important in the kingdom of God than genuine love. It is a difficult thing to practice and nigh unto impossible to master. Love involves committment and sacrifice. Love demands putting my whole being, my goods, my gifts, and my presence at the service of my brothers and sisters. A difficult thing to do consistently, especially when it's not reciprocated! But then love doesn't look to itself, it counts the other as better than itself, and looks to the other's benefit.

Spritual gifts are not intended for the advantage of the gifted. Not that there is not some blessing in passing them along, but they exist to benefit the witness of their expression rather than the channel of their expression. The actor is merely conduit or a tool in God's hand, the benefit is for the common good. In spiritual gifts the focus is never on me but always on thee. Could they be a more loving expression?

Gifts do no one any good buried. In fact, the one who buries the gifts acts in a patently unloving and selfish way in doing so. He or she becomes a robber rather than a blesser, devilish rather than dovish! Love and spiritual gifts are not mutually exclusive, so let's not take the shortcut of putting the axe to one or the other. It's not one or the other, it's meant to be both and that includes tongues!

What would it take for the church to be truly godly? Loving each other as Jesus loves us would certainly fit the bill. I actually believe the world has yet to see what Jesus truly wants to reveal in his church. However, when the covers come off, though it will look unmistakingly like love, it will also be unmistakingly supernatural.