Many of us were missing this past Sunday for various reasons, and those of us who were in the Lord’s house felt the difference. Unfortunately, our recording device didn’t record the sermon this week, so we don’t have the usual sermon audio backup for those who were away. Let me say, briefly, that while our sermon audio postings are helpful for visitors, distant friends, and church workers who are out of the sanctuary, there is no substitute for regular, consistent meetings with the people of God. Simply put, we belong together, and we suffer when we are apart from each other.
This ties in directly to the sermon text from this past Sunday, Romans 12:1-8. Take a few minutes to find and read that passage in your Bible. We belong together, Paul says! As part of the same body, the body of Christ, we have different functions, roles, and gifts. And each of us belongs to all the others. This is a type of lifestyle that differs greatly from the natural order of things, the way the world works: normally, people (especially American people) consider themselves to be independent creatures, able to act as they please without regard for others. In the body of Christ, though, we exist differently: we are to live for the sake of the whole and for the sake of Christ. Life in the church truly is an alternative community.
With this in mind, the issue of “spiritual gifts” becomes more clear. We are given gifts by the Spirit of God not for our own sake but for the sake of the church community to which we belong. On Sunday, we studied Romans 12 to see what Paul identified as gifts for everyone in the community, not just for its leaders:
- Prophesying: preaching, speaking words from God to edify the church
- Serving: ministering, taking care of the details of the church’s life
- Teaching: conveying the truths of the gospel for those who are learning
- Encouraging: urging fellow believers to live the life of faith
- Giving: contributing and distributing material goods for the church and for others
- Leading: charting the course for the church
- Showing mercy: visiting the sick, elderly, imprisoned, etc. (among other tasks)
These seven gifts were not intended to be comprehensive; neither were the lists of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. Instead, they are illustrations and examples; in whatever ways God has given you abilities and interests, use those gifts for the sake of the church. And this applies to everyone, not just to the leaders of the church. (Take another look at the list above; don’t those things sound like the job descriptions of the pastor and the church council?) Paul is speaking to everyone in the Christian community in Rome (and to us!) when he writes these words.
We belong to each other. We need each other! God has blessed each of us uniquely to play important roles in the life of the church. Let’s discover our gifts and use them for the glory of God and for the growth of the church to which we belong!