A Private Faith
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
We Keep What We Have by Giving it Away (AA Big Book)
I grew up in an evangelical tradition, meaning we placed a heavy emphasis on sharing our faith with others. Honestly, this idea has always made me more than a little uncomfortable. Like most people, I just want to be normal. The Christian life – as described by Jesus and Paul – is decidedly abnormal. Sure, I believe in God, but for most of my life, I’ve just wanted to keep my faith private.
In my early attempts at recovery, I had the same attitude. My addiction brought me a lot of shame, and so, I didn’t want to talk about it with others. I certainly wasn’t interested in helping anyone else find recovery. I just wanted to keep my addiction – and my recovery – private.
In today’s passage though, Paul said the Holy Spirit lives in all Christians. This indwelling of the Spirit results in some outward manifestation, which is for the good of those around us. If we truly follow Christ, we must use the gifts given to us to help those God puts in our path. Keeping our faith private, it seems, really isn’t an option. If it’s authentic, our faith will cause us to reach out in some way.
In my early attempts at recovery, I was honestly more interested in my dignity and pride than I was in staying sober. And so, I didn’t stay sober very long. This last time around though, I realized that if my recovery was real, it would cause me to reach out, helping others who were struggling. If it was real, I would give it away. In giving it away, it became real.
I’m not saying we all must stand on a street corner, preaching to the passing crowds. We don’t have to be Billy Graham and we don’t all have to write a blog. If we follow Christ though, Paul says we all have something to offer to those around us. Maybe it means mowing the neighbor’s lawn. Maybe it means volunteering with the children’s ministry at church. In whatever ways we’re gifted, we must use those gifts to further the kingdom of God.
If we refuse to obey, two things happen. First, the kingdom misses out on what we have to offer. Second, and perhaps worse, if we never express our faith, we may unfortunately discover that it was never real to begin with.