The Word of the Lord from 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11-15 (NASV):
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. […] But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.
As I reflect on my experience of being in seminary and how I have grown, I have come to realize that there existed a heart of divisiveness and spiritual superiority in me. I look back and feel the peace within me and thank God for showing me how to be humble and consider the differences I see in others as a good and beautiful gift from God.
Sometimes the differences I see in others are a result of wounds they carry. Sometimes it is a result of bad theology. For those, I pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth, because it is His job to transform people, and we are all a work in progress. Sometimes, I feel the prompting to go to a brother or sister in love and reason with them. I believe that is what we are occasionally called to do. I am not talking about these kinds of situations, though.
There are many different expressions of faith in Christ. There are high church traditions; there are low church traditions. There is emotion-evoking contemporary praise music, and there are beautiful, theology-filled hymns. There are people who are very logical about their faith, and some who are very emotional. There are people who are meticulous and thoughtful, and people who are charismatic. Expressions of faith in Jesus are as different as the personalities who call them their own.
I, in my humanity, compared all of them to me.
This person does not sing as much as me. He must not have a heart of love for God. (Never mind that he escorts widows to their seats and prays for them by name.)
This person is not as sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. She must not believe in the work of the Holy Spirit. She is not nearly as spiritual as I am. (Never mind that she creates sermons that bring the heart of God right down so you can breathe Him in.)
This person’s Bible is duct taped! How could he treat the Word of God so carelessly? I clearly hold it in higher esteem than he does. (Never mind that the reason it is duct-taped is because it is so care-worn from use that it is literally falling apart, and that it has all his thoughts written in the margin. He cherishes it so much that he would rather tape it than part with it.)
This passage about spiritual gifting has become a plumb-line for me to measure the state of my heart. God is so big, so deep, and so wide, no one person can capture his essence. I can’t expect everyone to have the same encounter with Him that I have had. And He made us all different for a reason. That reserved person who isn’t flamboyant and charismatic—he can reach the people who are probably scared to death of my loud and crazy self.
I celebrate those who are scheduled and those who do things on the fly. I celebrate those who cling to liturgy, hymnody, and structure. I am joyful that there are people who create and sing contemporary worship and have church in movie theatres. I am thankful God made those who can sense the Holy Spirit as keenly as I do, but I am also thankful that He made people who hear Him in different ways. I’ve learned that just because some people do not experience God the way I do does not mean that they are not experiencing God at all, or even that their experience of God is somehow less. Perhaps it is simply different.