In the recent Big Rocks series, the Flatirons value of Gifted Service got me thinking. There is much information written in print and on the web about spiritual gifts and their importance to the work of the church, so I am not going to address that. What I have been mulling over is how we serve.
After looking up passages that refer to spiritual gifts, I noticed that after the teachings about the gifts of the Spirit, there are also teaching and commands about offering or working out those gifts in love; for example, 1 Corinthians 12 is followed by the 'Love Chapter', 1 Corinthians 13. Romans 12 contains a list of spiritual gifts along with the truth that love fulfills all of God’s requirements. Ephesians 4 contains a list of gifts followed by exhortations to live in light and love as children of light in the power of the Holy Spirit. I had not seen before the connection between the gifts of the Spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12 followed by the love command in 1 Corinthians 13:
“If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and If I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t ‘t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
I asked myself this question: What does it look like when I live out a spiritual gift without love? One of the spiritual gifts that comes up consistently for me is mercy. Numerous examples came to mind of when I was not merciful or when I showed mercy on the outside, but without love, which isn’t really mercy. Basically, the ugliness of my heart at the time was revealed.
So what does it mean and look like to exercise a spiritual gift with love?
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
As I look at the first half of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, the gifts listed are things done, whereas the second half of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 relates to relationships with people. I asked myself, am I fulfilling a task or loving a person? When I look at recent examples in my life, I see myself not loving people in the ways that are specified in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.
As I evaluated my situations against this detailed description of love, I could see where I lacked kindness, was prideful, wanted my own way, gave up, and lacked faith.
Now what do I do? I am left with knowing, to some extent, the gifts that God has given me and yet the challenge at times of living those out in love with others.
I’ve found that when I acknowledge my real feelings to God and sometimes to a trustworthy friend, that is the beginning of a change of heart. Then I ask God: What do I do next? After I related my honest feelings to God about a situation, I could see where my heart was closed and not loving. When I prayed about what to do next, God used his word to correct my thinking, as he often does, and an episode of Friday Night Lights to soften my heart. In another situation, through the Holy Spirit I understood it was more of a boundary issue that I needed to take care of myself and get some rest before I could help meet a friend’s need. I offered to help a friend another time, when my heart was in a better place.
Janet, wife of Andy Wineman, mother of three young adult children, John, Peter, and Joy, and loving doggie mom to Trooper, volunteers with the Women's Ministry and the Prayer Team and has attended Flatirons for 24 years.