Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Languages of men or of angels... and what they're good for

The first time I can recall hearing about "tongues" was an article in Psychology Today talking about glossolalia, which at the time I found odd.

Then some years later, after meeting Jesus and starting to follow him, I read about the concept of "tongues" in Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 14, etc., but I didn't get the point of it. Then one day I went to a worship service where a bunch of people started talking at once, and I couldn't understand what they were saying. They seemed to me to be babbling. Or, as Paul says, Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14.9)

Later on in that same chapter, Paul says
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
1 Corinthians 14.26-28
I don't have much experience with "tongues" -- I've only heard "tongues" once, and I've never heard them interpreted, as Paul prescribes. My experience and initial thought was like this:
So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
1 Corinthians 14.23
I wasn't an unbeliever, but I didn't understand what these people were saying. I don't think they were out of their minds, but it does seem to me that they were not obeying verse 28: If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet....

Speaking of keeping quiet, today's Old Testament reading, from the book of Job, shows one guy who should have thought some more before speaking. In yesterday's posting I mentioned that Satan had attacked Job, destroying his property, killing his children, and ruining his health. Job's three friends visited him and heard his lament. In chapter 4, Eliphaz says to him:
"Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.
Job 4.7
What a thing to say! Why do people say things like that? "You've been plowing evil and sowing trouble -- that's why you're in trouble now."

Okay, so sometimes people sow evil and reap it, like the guy who held up a convenience store and then demanded a carton of cigarettes from behind the counter. The cashier said, "I gotta see some ID before I give you any cigarettes, man," then memorized the criminal's name and address before handing him the cigarettes.

But that's only sometimes! A boy and girl meet in Bible school, for goodness's sake, seek counsel, pray, get married, have children, and then one day one of them leaves the family, moves in with a same-sex lover, and some months later commits suicide. The children and ex-spouse are devastated. Who sowed trouble or plowed evil? Nobody did!

The truth is that life is unpredictable, and not one of is adequate to meet its challenges without God.

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