1 Corinthians 14:26 Let all things be done for building up.
When in treatment, I was confronted by another addict who wanted to know if I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I knew what his question meant. He wanted to know if I could prove my faith by speaking in tongues. When I told him that I did not do so, he immediately began to question my faith. He just could not understand how I could consider myself a real Christian without speaking the mysterious language of God.
His exclusivity, in my mind, made him extremely judgmental. In turn, I became quite suspect of his faith. I felt that someone who was so obviously abusing religion, using it as a weapon against others, owned a twisted faith. I became judgmental: What a weirdo.
Take a moment to consider the hypocrisy and stupidity of two addicts, sitting in treatment, judging each other on the finer details of spiritual gifts. Never mind that we had made a disaster of our lives. We both were right and we both wanted to exclude the other from the body of Christ. Needless to say, we did not have much to do with each other after that conversation.
This topic of speaking in tongues can be a bit divisive. Right now, some of you have no idea what I am talking about. Some of you think I am the weirdo for addressing it and yet others are a little suspicious of me for not speaking in tongues.
Paul must have seen our propensity for division regarding the spiritual gifts. Five times, in today’s passage, he exhorted that the gifts of God are to be used only to build up the body of Christ. As God has given us each unique traits and abilities, we are to use them constructively. Building up others though, is not natural. It is our tendency to use what we know to tear down, condescend, belittle, argue and exclude. Though we are to use our abilities to include others, we often act as though we are the church bouncers. We see ourselves as keepers of the faith and those who do not adhere to our exact version of faith, must be excised.
Paul insisted that I am to use whatever gifts I have to draw others to Christ. I may not be able to speak in tongues, but I am always capable of choosing love. Love is constructive and inclusive. This is not my nature though. I am, by nature, arrogant, condescending and exclusive. I am not naturally quick with a compliment. I am naturally sarcastic, judgmental and condescending. I use what I know to categorize and label others.
Growing up, I just knew that those on the other side of the political spectrum could not be Christians. It was not until much later that I learned that they felt the exact same way about me.
This is my exact problem. I use what I have and what I believe to divide the world into us and them. Paul, insisted that the gifts of God are not meant to be used this way. He insisted that in all things, I am to look beyond myself to do the will of God, building others up, drawing them into the body of Christ. I am not God’s bouncer.