Ever sat in a discussion about spiritual gifts and ended up wondering why it sounded like an episode of the XMen? I have. As the discussions progress, superpowers are described in ever more fantastic detail and I have wondered why some people haven’t flown off to heaven already. In fact, a lot of spiritual gifts are purely imaginary. One sure way to derail these discussions however is to ask a question about the difference between talents and Spiritual gifts. No superpower exists for that one!
It is clear from the respective texts that the spiritual gifts are given to the church to enable it to fulfil its Christ-given mandate. Take for example, the gift of ears in Acts 2. I call it the gift of ears because people from all over the place heard what was being said “in their own language”. Jews from all over the Roman Empire, and beyond, were gathered in Jerusalem and they spoke various languages. What did unite them, however, was a longing for the Messiah and thus, the church had to declare Jesus as the long awaited Messiah to them. The Holy Spirit came, tearing down the language barrier erected in Genesis 11 and everyone clearly heard the glorious message: Jesus is the Messiah!
That church, much like today’s, was a ragtag bunch with no idea of how to spread the gospel to a hostile world. Only the Holy Spirit could enable them to do it and not only was He willing, He was eager! He is just as eager today as He was back then, if not more so. I struggle to believe that He is stoic about it all. No! With Jesus as a template, I picture Him enjoying the process of giving gifts to the church, propping us up to stand for Jesus in a world that would have us cower in shame. As much as the gifts enable us to spread the message, they do more for us. Each gift is a stark reminder that we are not alone!
Why then the superpower discussions? It is pride and selfishness donning the disguise of piety. We want the gifts for ourselves and not for God’s work. That is why gifts like preaching, teaching and healing are more popular than others: they attract the attention and approbation that we crave with abandoned desperation. Hence, the scramble for gifts.
In many churches only a minority of people know what their gifts are. That is because the majority don’t have gifts because they aren’t in Christ’s body. Goats don’t have gifts. Their pastors need to stop giving sermons on “How to Discover Your Gift,” and start giving sermons on “How to Repent and be Born Again.”
We, the church, our powerless both individually and corporately without the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is eager to work with us. What then could the problem be? We need to repent and submit to God. The disciples spent a long time praying together, yearning for the power that Jesus had promised before the Spirit ignited their ministry. History (and the future) is a gruelling tale of the perils of power without character. We have to become safe to empower lest the Holy Spirit create powerful human Devils.
In the end I can only say that whatever superpower you have isn’t for you to draw attention to yourself but to pour out in service to God and man. You are never alone!
photo credit: pikawil100 Montreal Mini-Comiccon 2016 – Spider-Verse via photopin (license)