One of the things I really enjoy is getting together with other folks who are on the journey. I am astounded at how the central themes are all the same but the expression of those themes through individual lives is marvelously varied and unique. It reminds me that the God we serve is infinitely creative and how the same message can be lived - demonstrated and enlivened - in so many ways.
I have often stated that the Father has no problems coloring outside the lines. More so I have come to realize that those lines He seems at times to ignore are not His lines but my own. This in itself makes me laugh - that I often confuse my own lines with His and a humbling reminder that He is so much bigger than I am!
One of the most significant change I am finding as the Father continues to work in and through His people is around the area of gifting. For so long the gifts we have as the people of God have been part of an intricate system of human commerce in the church. This form of commerce sees the gifts and talents of people as commodities to be consumed for the good of the community. In many ways that’s exactly what they were intended for, to be a blessing and an encouragement, to serve one another and to help equip the saints for ministry.
The smudge on this lens comes when we see the gifts as a commodity we trade for position and status within a community - formalized or decentralized. Whether it was a ministerial meeting, church conference or very relational informal gatherings, we are conditioned to relate to one another and establish our place in the pecking order by the gifts and talents we have or another way...the depth of our spiritual resume’. In this light it may appear crass but when we strip away the religious finery we can see that despite what we may say we believe, we really believe our value and worth in the Kingdom of God is what we do - what we offer in way of gifts. This being the case, when our gifts are used this way, they are not gifts at all but another way of manipulating power for our own sense of identity and place in the herd!
The tendency within community is to look at our gifts and then compare them to the gifts of others in that community and on this basis discern where we fit in the hierarchy. There is a healthier way through. When we realize that the gifts we possess are just that - gifts - and we received them as gifts (not earned) then we can begin to see these things in a clearer light. We must recognize, that time and time again, the demonstration of the love of God establishes that we are equal in Christ - male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave or free. We must therefore understand we belong to the body for no other reason than Christ. When we allow the revelation of this to sink in and begin to renovate our hearts, we approach community in a very different way. Our gifts are no longer commodities to ensure our place rather they become true gifts of love within the body and shared freely for the benefit of all.
How? Because the gift is a gift of love with no strings attached which can be freely offered and freely received. More over, we find rest and belonging in the local community because we realize we no longer need to perform and conform to belong. It is no longer about what we bring to the table, whether we are strong or weak, we belong for no other reason than we are in Christ.
We will never be the Kingdom communities we are intended to be if our belonging and importance is on the basis of our ability to perform. Likewise, our gifts will never be truly gifts and we will never find rest as a part community as long as we continue in this vein.
Freely you have received; freely give. - Mt 10:8b
Please remember: I am talking about what we actually live not what we say we believe! We mature into this revelation. In experiencing the unconditional love of God we learn that we are loved and valued not on the merits of our skills or our goodness but upon the Fathers good character. This means we can step off the treadmill of trying to earn Gods favor and love and simply rest in the fact that we already exist in the fullness of it. It is in this place we can truly give and receive gifts within community. As Kingdom communities we are called to be microcosms of this reality on earth as it is in heaven.