character versus giftedness

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The fruit of the Spirit (“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”) are not in competition against the gifts of the Spirit. But this passage from Paul makes it clear that without love, the operation of the gifts means nothing, at least not in God’s estimation of the person who practices them.

What I would like to tell any young, budding preacher would be something like what Paul is saying here. I would say, the gift part will come. That is important. But major on character. Make sure your life is in line with God’s call to love which includes living in and according to the truth.

Give me any day and every day someone who is faithfully plodding along with what might be considered a nothing out of the ordinary gift, but consistently and faithfully loves others, and loves God, their lives marked by obedience to God’s will. I’ll take that any day over a person who has an amazing gift, but is a bit fast and loose when it comes to character. The fruit of the Spirit is the goal in our lives toward Christ-likeness. The gifts of the Spirit are meant to help us move that direction. In and through Jesus.

no tell all memoir (from myself)

A memoir from what I can tell is simply a recounting of one’s experience in life. It might be as different as the author who wrote it. Memoir might imply creativity, or at least uniqueness, since we’re giving a subjective account, our actual impression as well as understanding of what happened in our lives. There really is no objective story if one means simply the facts, although in many venues such a goal is desirable, and probably even necessary.

A tell all memoir means no holds barred, which means one can simply let go and explore what one might write with no restrictions whatsoever. Of course we know right away that such a thought might not only be unedifying, but unworkable, or at least always subject to revision. And we need to remember again the subjectivity with which we understand and don’t understand, even misunderstand so much. Only God understands anything at all in all its complexity perfectly. Humility is the watchword here.

It’s interesting to consider the gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are all written with a certain goal in mind, John’s account especially explicitly so. To consider Luke’s account (and he wrote Acts as well), Luke in how he wrote might be more in line with how accounts are written today. And yet he’s close enough to the other gospel accounts (especially Matthew and Mark, the three called the synoptic gospels) to help us understand that he writes with purpose, and not as a tell all. A tell all book of Jesus would surely be a lengthy volume.

But back to the main point about memoirs, and why I’m actually thinking about them: A good memoir would hold others in respect, and therefore would not be out to embarrass anyone. It again all depends on the writer, their take on life, what they think is respectful or not. And not all actions in life are worthy of respect, for sure. We can at least still look, long for, or regret the lack of redemption for an individual. Again I go back to the gospel accounts and think of Judas Iscariot. He ends up rather unseemly all the way, though not all that much is said. He was a thief, it seemed like the love of money was the idol that ruled his life and was his demise. The story told of him ends up being edifying toward helping others to avoid his path. I can well imagine if this is possible, Judas now wanting that to be so, although my view of the afterlife, subject to revision, is that likely this is not the case, given the nature of what Judas might be going through, as well as the fact that people in their character do not change in the afterlife. Jesus’s parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man might indicate otherwise, except that I’m not certain that parable was told as a window to the afterlife, but to simply make a point about this life.

And so I’m thinking about trying my hand at a memoir. Not a lengthy one, but one which like my blog might help a few along their way, and might help me to make more sense of the way I’ve been on, and still am. In and through Jesus.

 

friendship

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend is someone you spend time with, sharing an affinity somehow, having a connection. One’s best friend I think ought to be one’s spouse or significant other. But one can have other friends as well, one of whom may be a friend in a way a spouse can’t. Actually every friendship is surely unique as the different people who are friends.

In a general sense we might have a good number of friends, any number of people you might feel comfortable with at a party or some kind of gathering. But real, true blue friends are rare, or much less in number. And actually we can be friends like that with only so many. Jesus himself spent a good share of his time, especially what private time he had, with the Twelve. And Peter, James and John shared the most intimate, closest times with him, John perhaps being the closest of all, calling himself in the gospel with his name, “the one Jesus loved.” Though perhaps that ascription was simply because of his own awareness of Jesus’ love for him.

Being friendly is important, and certainly a prerequisite to being a friend (Proverbs). But being friendly is not the same as being a friend. Friendship requires a commitment to be present with each other through thick and thin. It is two way, not one way. So that it’s different than a mentoring kind of friendship. And yet true friends are present for each other in ways that are not only comforting and consoling through the battering life often brings, but also to sharpen each other, as in iron sharpening iron (Proverbs). A good friend will love at all times, and that love will not let their friend off easily from what might be harmful, or less than desirable for their good.

I have come to think that true, deep friendship is rare. There will have to be a commitment to each other in which a multitude of shortcomings as in limitations and even sins are forgiven. True friendship isn’t easy. Sometimes between two people it’s impossible because one simply drains the other. None of us can be God to another. People need to be helped out of a “codependency” which is as harmful to themselves, probably more so, than to the one they unhealthily depend on. “Friendships” like that should be broken. Such people need friends, but it needs to be in a give and take relationship in which there is something of partnership and equality.

A good place to start in this is friendship with God, yes with God in and through Jesus. Through God’s reconciling work in Jesus, we can be friends again with God, and friends anew with each other. Jesus is the pattern in himself and by his example. So that friendship is to be edifying, in God through Jesus the most edifying and ennobling of all, beginning the restoring of the brokenness of our humanity into the full humanity that is in Christ.

pursuing the peace that edifies

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

There is no doubt that no two people who do much thinking at all are going to agree on everything. Even beyond different perspectives (which alone should help us become good listeners) we at times will flat out disagree. Unfortunately today the discourse instead of being civil is often combative. Yes, just by breathing one is going to be controversial with someone. There is no way to avoid it.

In the context quoted above, Paul is referring to disputable matters among Christians, trying to help the weak both by letting them see the freedom in Christ in such areas, but at the same time the necessity of not violating their weak consciences on a given matter. With the need that the weak would not judge the strong, nor the strong the weak. And the strong would not look down on the weak. That the goal would be mutual edification.

Perhaps our own disagreements which might become conflicts are not worth the cost in terms of what is spent and what one is left with. Probably the crux of the matter does come down to how we handle our inevitable differences. Are we mature enough to enter into a discussion in which we hear each other out and in the end perhaps agree to disagree without holding the other person with less regard?

This is something we must practice, but it also should be our mindset. It goes not only to the kind of matters addressed in the text but to all manner of things. We have to avoid the need to control with the attitude that it is “my way or the highway.” While at the same time standing firm in the freedom of conscience we have in Christ to do what we do, or refuse to do what others practice. As we above all seek the peace which edifies each other.

fellowship

The New Testament word translated “fellowship,” or perhaps more aptly, “participation” is from the Greek word transliterated koinonia. We in Jesus are in this new life together. We indeed are one body in Christ, and the Head, Christ actually does communicate and bless members of his body through other members. If I’m connected to the Head, Christ, I can be a blessing to others in him, as well as receive his blessing from others.

Yesterday I went to church not in the best of moods. I was unhappy over something about which I could do little or nothing about except to pray. Instead of waiting on the Lord, I was rather getting hotter inside, though holding that in well through the service and Holy Communion into what might be called fellowship time.

It was then that the Lord began to give me the grace needed to deal with the problem point. First with a sister who shared with me something appropriate and helpful, even liberating for my problem, then carrying on in friendly conversation with others, and then the clincher on this from one of our pastors. When we left, the problem was essentially taken care of inside of me, even if the matter itself is ongoing.

The fellowship of the body of Christ, or our participation together as Christ’s body is a blessing that is so inherent and integral, that is, necessary and a part of what it means to be in Christ and of his body the church, that to lose out on this for one reason or another, is to lose out on something fundamental to God’s work in our lives. We tend in this culture to downplay that, though I’m glad to be a part of a church which does not.

While it is possible to go to church gatherings, or be involved in that too much, so that we have little time for anything else, we should avail ourselves of every opportunity within reason of being together. It isn’t so much in what we do, but in simply being present with each other. That presence and God’s presence in Jesus by the Spirit will take care of the doing in the form of conversation, listening, words offered and prayer. Neither is the point in how we come across. Of course all should be in a grace-filled love. I may think I’m as weak as can be, ineffective, yes, but Christ may be using me just the same for another. Just as he is using another to minister to me, building me up/edifying me in love.

Yes, we’re in this together, no less. There is no such thing at all in scripture, in the New Testament as a lone ranger Christian. Though at times we may need to stand alone, we are essentially one body in Christ, for each other and for the world.