Thursday, July 13, 2006

What kind of gift is this, anyway?

Some years ago, a mentor and friend used a couple of verses from Romans 1 as a Bible study exercise. I don't remember the exact interpretation or what all the principles are, but when I came across the passage in today's reading I remember struggling to understand it:
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong -- that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
Romans 1.11-12
Now usually when the phrase "spiritual gift" comes up in the church, people are talking about teaching or giving or healing. Or tongues (my least favorite). But what's going on in this passage?

OK, so I guess I do remember one of the principles of Bible study from that exercise, which was to test possible interpretations against the text. For example, if we think the passage means:
While you and I are mutually encouraged by each other's faith, the appropriate gift will become evident. Then I'll put my hands on your shoulders and pray for you and thus impart the gift to you.
then we'd better see if the words could be interpreted that way. If the words can be interpreted that way, it doesn't mean we're right, but if they cannot be interpreted that way, our interpretation is definitely wrong.

Well, after a quick look back, I'm pretty sure that interpretation is wrong. It's wrong because "that is, that" doesn't mean "during the process in which" (or "after..." or "as a result of..." or "facilitated by...").

What's far more likely is that the text means what it says, in other words, that "impart some spiritual gift" here equals "mutually encouraged by each other's faith". What does that mean to you or me? I think it means that wherever you go, if your faith encourages others and their faith encourages you, you are giving them a gift that strengthens them. It's a gift that's spiritual, thus a spiritual gift, though not a Spiritual Gift in the way some people use the term.

I mean, you and I aren't the apostle Paul, but, you are sent to whoever you're sent to, which I suppose makes you an apostle. And me too. Yow!

I was just listening to a sermon by our Kobe pastor Rob Flaherty. It's the sermon from this past Sunday, July 9th, where he talked about the anointing of the Spirit. One thing we must do to experience the Holy Spirit's power working in us, he said, is to believe that God wants to use me, that God can use me, to bring blessing into whatever situation I'm in. Which I think goes nicely with today's reading.

So, my fellowship can be a gift. And yours can be a gift to me, too.

Does that make you feel powerful and important? It should. In a good way, I mean.

posted 7/13

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