Read: 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NRSV
Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.
Yesterday we read about the importance of aligning our claims with scripture before talking about spiritual gifts. It’s easy to build towers of logic upon our own assumptions, but without Christ as the cornerstone, we may as well be building upon sand. (What happens to the foolish man, again? Matt.7:24-27)
Today’s passage introduces the main idea of the whole chapter: we are diverse, but united in God. Our differences don’t separate us, they unite us. Our individual strengths and passions should express glory to God in 8 billion unique ways. When we allow the Holy Spirit to overtake our own spirits, we do not become identical clones of some master copy. Instead, the Holy Spirit is like a very good scrubbing of soap and water that reveals our true features. We don’t look more alike by cleaning our faces. If anything, sin is a layer of grime that makes us look interchangeable. God wants to wipe the mud from our noses to see our freckles. He wants to see each individual curl of our hair, hear the unique timbre of our voices. He delights in how much we look like Him, but also in how much we look like ourselves. And, like any good parent, sometimes he needs to chase us down and dump us into the bathtub.
So, too with spiritual gifts. Sin and pride have a conforming effect. Don’t all evil men seem the same? Vain, cruel, self-obsessed. Gifts from the Spirit and for the Spirit are wondrously diverse and surprising. What makes personalities so remarkable are the uncommon goodnesses that grow from the Spirit. Think of the unique joy of St. Francis, or the incomparable self-sacrifice of Mother Theresa. We don’t often associate obedience with notoriety, but it was their obedience to God’s will that made them so different.
When we seek God, we transform into our true selves. When we obey His will, our differences unite us in our common pursuit.