A Truly Remarkable Gift

I think what brought it all home for me, wrestling with questions of faith an spiritual gifts, these past days, was a conversation with a friend. Driving into the city together, we were sharing stories of life, and faith with its attendant joys and struggles. It was there that I first voiced much of the wrestling that turned into my previous two posts (Concerning Spiritual Gifts & More Faith Required).

It was during that conversation that I first allowed myself to consider that the gift of faith, if a gift of God’s Spirit, is just that – a gift.

More than that, and in the broader context of 1 Corinthians 12, it started to become apparent (or perhaps a little less hazy?) that what St. Paul is driving at in this passage in particular, is that we all need each other. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the words of the passage repeated to me, but I’m always surprised when something new leaps off the page, leaving me with new insight.

God’s Spirit has bestowed these diverse gifts upon us, in disproportionate measure. This is somehow part of the plan. It’s not about me, it’s not about my self esteem or sense of self-worth. It’s not about how worthy I think I am, or how worthy I think I’m not. In the end, it’s about none of these things. It’s about the gifts of God for the people of God.

Thanks Be To God!

As we continue to meander through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we hear this:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

Sitting there in the car with my friend on the way downtown I share that I think this is where infant baptism starts to make sense for me. We were all baptized into one body. All of us. And each of us is made (created!) to drink of one Spirit. I never used to understand the baptism of infants. How could they be baptized? An infant cannot have faith. A child cannot believe. Everything about my anabaptist upbringing was standing in the way.

And yet, reading this passage, I noticed more at play than I ever had before.

First and foremost, the insight that faith is a gift. It is a gift of God’s Spirit. None of us is able to manufacture faith, because faith is pure gift.

Secondly, there’s this thing called the body. A many-membered body with many-membered gifts. To one is given this, to another that, and we need them all. We need each other. Deeply. Profoundly. We need each other. We need each other in our woundedness, in our frailty, in our strength and (perhaps especially) in spite of our pride.

If you’re not experiencing the fullness of the Spirit’s gift of faith right now, that’s okay. It’s fine. Someone else is. We all have gifts of the Spirit, allotted to each one individually, just as the Spirit chooses. To one is given a large measure of faith. To another, a smaller measure or no measure at all.

And finally, if that’s a possibility, then the community’s faith is surely enough for an infant to be baptised and welcomed into…wait for it…the community of faith.

There I was, processing these things out loud, and my friend shared with me: “I get it. I know exactly what you mean.”

It was then that my friend told the story of a family member who had hit rock bottom. Struggle and addiction led to hollowness and defeat. Hollowness and defeat to a loss of faith. What do you do when you’ve hit rock bottom? What do you do when your faith has petered out? What do you do when you can no longer access the gift of faith?

I guess that’s why we have community. When you don’t have anything left, it may just be that the only thing to buoy you is the faith, and hope, and love of the community. As my friend tells the story, in the absence of faith, that community demonstrated great faith. In the absence of love, great love was poured out. In the absence of hope, a perseverant hope doggedly and resiliently carried the day.

“I get it,” my friend said. “I know exactly what you mean.”

If faith is a gift, it is not just a gift to each individual for themselves  If faith is a gift, it is a gift for the common good. A gift to be shared, leant out, and given away when members of your community have no more faith to spare. Even so:

God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)

I suppose that leads me to this: if there’s even a sliver of truth in that statement, then this is truly a remarkable gift.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Missioner to Valhalla Parish on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. Her previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at www.empireremixed.com, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

One Response to “A Truly Remarkable Gift”

  1. B. Walsh

    Yes, Andrew, and that creates a very interesting dynamic in the church. On one level, all Christians are people of faith. I mean, without faith, why would one be a Christian at all? But you are right in bringing our attention to faith as a gift of the Spirit. And just as we are right to depend on those with a gift of prophecy or healing to exercise that gift in the community on our behalf, so also are those with the gift of faith called to exercise that gift on behalf of others.

    I remember a pastoral conversation once where we got to the matter of forgiveness and it was clear that the person I was talking with simply couldn’t bring herself to a place where she could really accept that she had been forgiven. She hadn’t forgiven herself and she couldn’t believe, she didn’t have enough faith to believe, that God could have really forgiven her either. So I said, “that’s okay. I’ll tell you what. You don’t have the faith to embrace your own forgiveness, but I do. I since do have that faith, let me hold that forgiveness on your behalf. I’ll have faith for you while you are in a place where you can’t have it yourself.” She asked, “can you do that?” And, truth be known, I had no idea whether you could do that or not, but I knew that this was the right thing to say at this time to this woman. Indeed, I knew that this was true. At that moment, I was called to have faith on her behalf. I think that that was also when I first began to believe that maybe I was called to this kind of pastoral ministry.

    I hadn’t quite put this all together in this way, until I read and reflected on this post. Thanks.

    Reply

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