What's a Body to Do?
We were talking in Sunday school last week about the gifts of the spirit (1 Corinthians 12) and the body of Christ. One of the questions we discussed was how we come to the determination of what our gifts from God are. There are some “signs” we experience as individuals. When we are using our gifts, we are joyous, we are energized, or we just “know." As a body, though, we are called to point out these gifts of the spirit to each other. JtM* called it “exhortation,” and I think that’s a good word:
Exhortation: language intended to incite or encourage. (Sidenote – the dictionary gave the Latin word hortari as part of the entomology of the English word “exhort.” Hortari means to incite, urge or encourage. Hortari is also part of the entomology of the world “yearn.” Isn’t that interesting? No? I think so.As part of the Body of Christ, we are to watch for God’s gifts in other people, and then to point them out. Why is that? What purpose does it serve for me to tell you what you may already know? In fact, Scott (in class) warned that this could lead to pride in our accomplishments rather than recognition of gifts. While I admit that this could be a danger, I think the bigger danger lies in NOT doing it.
We encourage our children all the time. We see what they are doing well, and we point it out to them. Exhortation helps us to recognize gifts that God has given to us when we might ignore them. It gives us confidence to step onto shaky ground. It encourages us to witness to others about their gifts. And maybe, if we’re doing it right, it points to other people the presence of God in their lives. If we are saying that we recognize a gift from God in another person, we are, logically, telling that person that God is working in his/her life.
I read the devotion this morning in Disciplines. It was based on Psalm 14:1-3. I mentioned that psalm yesterday; it is one of the more depressing ones, and I’m glad MY job wasn’t to write a devotion centered around it. The author brought up a point, though, that I really liked, and that, in my mind, parallels exhortation.
How do we know, when we are at life’s lowest point, that God has not abandoned us? How is it that we feel the presence of God in pain? Other than the ways which are between the child and God, the body of Christ plays a huge part. We see the presence of God in each other. I wish I had a handy-dandy word like exhortation to call it – we’ll call it “support.” The actions of the body of Christ – our support of each other in life’s pain -- are visible, tangible evidence that God is present. Just as exhortation can allow me to point to you and say, “Look, what a great gift God has given you. God is at work in your life,” support can allow you to see, “Look, God has not left you alone. He is right here, with you now.”
To me it is further evidence, if we needed it, that this thing called “church” is necessary. I have no doubt that if you are sitting in a room by yourself watching a church service on TV, that God can be with you. Certainly He can be there, but I can’t. Alone in a room, you are missing the ways in which the Body of Christ can (and should) point to God and say, “Look! Have faith. He’s here – He’s active in your life, and you matter to Him.” I think we need that, because this “faith thing” is too hard to do solo – maybe because it was designed to be a team endeavor.
Note: JtM = Jeff the Methodist
Images: Reflections of light. Are we called to mirror God to people? The first one is of the sun reflecting in the window of the Outback. The second is Dave's porch light reflecting in the rain. The last one is the sun reflecting in the rearview mirror of the van on the way back from KI. I love the text, "Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear." If we do our job, then the people around us will realize that God is closer than He appears.