We in America like to talk about the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon us, and therefore we should use that gift for the body of Christ. But that’s not what Paul says in Romans. He says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…”, and then he continues, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another,” and then he continues yet again, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophesy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our minstering…”
I took a road trip a few months back with one of my friends. One idea he mentioned to me was how the Christians were the first Communists. We argued, and eventually came to a consensus. I don’t agree that the original Christians were really the first Communists, but perhaps they were the first communists. This is something we seem to have lost, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is individualism, perhaps it is freedom, I am not sure. But these few verses clearly state the idea of the body acting for the body, not the person acting for the body. As a church, we should be actively searching within our body for people with gifts, and then using them in the body, rather than expecting them to come to us with offers. It says, Let us use them, not Let me offer myself. The Christian community should be deeply understanding of the people in their body and the spiritual gifts they can offer. Something Paul makes so clear you have to be blind to miss it, is he says that everyone has spiritual gifts that are given to them by grace, not intellect, not strength, not will, but grace. That is, they are gifts from God, in exchange for what you have done for God in giving yourself into his service. Therefore, all members have the gifts, and all the gifts are different. It is the job of the church to understand how to use their body. And for the most part, it is done with a full heart of humbleness. Paul says that our wealth should be given to support the saints and should be given for hospitality. I’m guessing the saints in this case mean those who are in full-time ministry, and hospitality is taking care of people.
There is so much in this little chapter. Paul immediately separates the Christian community (and I say that as a nomer, not because they called themselves Christians but because it is easiest to write) from others, when he tells them to “not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble,” “bless those who persecute you,” “let love be without hypocrisy,” “repay no one evil for evil,” “do not avenge yourself, but rather give place to wrath; ‘Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’.” He also says, “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in doing so, you heap coals of fire on his head,” and he ends with “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is antithetical to nearly everything we are taught to be, and I would almost say, even in the church today. For example, if we disagree with the theology of a pastor, we leave the church. If we don’t like the music we leave the church. We church hop, searching for the best fit for ourselves. We misallocate funds, using it to pay for extraneaous things. Our focus is off, claiming that ministry in the church must be combined with business, so that both may complement each other. Our sermons have been stripped of scripture to the point where sermons are leadership and self-help talks based on a verse in the word. We have directed our churches towards short-term “mission trips” because of the profitability in the short-term, rather than the profitability of longer career missions. We send the body out on adventure cruises, adventure trips, and hold our services in convention-hall sized churches, where we can forget who we are during the rest of the week, and come together for a spiritual trance, singing vineyard style songs in a place designed for relaxation, “spiritual connection,” and “peace,” but when we return home, there remains the home, chaotic as ever, as we as the body are not involved in that, which we should be.