“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”-1 Cor.12:28-31
Tonight, I had to just get out and walk, taking in the view from the mountaintop. Grandfather was already tucked in for a midsummer’s eve slumber as the distant clouds barely allowed the setting sun the opportunity to cast its last golden rays upon his brow. There was nary a breeze, as the tops of the foxtails barely moved. My own forehead was damp from perspiration; the climb was not easy. Leaning against my walking staff, it couldn’t go unnoticed the lacerations and scars on my arms from work done these past few weeks on the building I’m calling the spiritual retreat. The thought of how we all serve God in a multitude of capacities passed through my head like the approaching clouds.
We cannot all be apostles, prophets, or teachers. Some are called to serve with what ability they were given; for some that means laying blocks, digging footings, and working in construction. At the present time, these latter talents are working heavily upon my soul, for they not only challenge our mind but more so, our bodies. When we are unaccustomed to the hard labor of such work, we are presented with the daunting reality of not being physically able to handle what lies before. If we choose to accept that challenge and answer the calling, we then step into what becomes a metamorphosis of both body and soul.
Like we are asked to do so many times in Jesus teachings, we become changed when we die to our former selves. When the course is one so difficult that it becomes a labor of blood, sweat, and tears, we are changed even more quickly. That once tight belt has become so loose, that new holes to latch with are required. Before long, even those have become loose. Braces for pulled tendons slowly fall by the wayside. Scars replace the bloody bandages as new cuts and bruises make their mark. The body slowly becomes adapted as muscles grow, allowing the work to seem less cumbersome.
At the same time, as we walk in our faith, we likewise struggle to understand the scriptures to their full potential. We read and understandeth not, we hear and don’t listen; yet, with time something changes. Stumbling as we walk along our path of faith, we slowly find those perceptions and understandings beginning to grow like our bodies; each adapting until we become metamorphosed into a new being. What once was only lines in a book become the words to which enlighten our innermost being, our spirit within our soul. When we become one with Christ, we allow the Holy Spirit to indwell, and it is then that we begin our true sanctification.
But we mustn’t become ahead of ourselves.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”-1 Cor.13:1-7
As Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, he was addressing the nature that we are all one body of Christ, each with our own added gifts. We should not see ourselves as better than anyone else no matter what we are capable of doing. We should not get “puffed up,” as he put it. As in my case, it is more of the reverse, for seeing, and feeling, how difficult and arduous it is to work with block and stone, I have even more respect and admiration for those that do it for a livelihood, not that I didn’t before, for it is now a heightened awareness. Likewise, is my respect and awe for the list of others whom Paul addressed as the people of whom we should covet their gifts. But then alas, we come back to the warning of doing just that. Even though there are those who seem to be perfect in what they do, the most eloquent speakers, the most admirable leader, we should not seek that gift of which they possess; rather, there is something much more miraculous of which Paul was speaking; charity.
The Greek translation for charity is, “agape,” which also means love. In this case, it refers to a man’s love for other mankind. Knowing that the charity of which he speaks is actually love, the words, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity,” then make more sense. For as Christ told us, the greatest commandment of all is to “love one another as I have loved thee.”
Yes, we should know that no matter how excellent we appear to the masses, there is nothing greater to achieve. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”-1 Cor.13:10-13
In the end, no matter what our calling, the words that ring most true to me are these, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” with regard to God the Father. No matter if you are swinging a pick in a muddy ditch as a laborer, scraping grimy plates as a dishwasher, or changing diapers in a nursing home, we beareth all for the Lord. Some serve in their daily capacity knowingly, never asking for praise, but doing as they are called. In the end, we are still all one body of Christ.
Tomorrow morning, the body may feel every swing the hammer from today, but when we rise, we are granted another day, another chance to share the love of Jesus with someone else. Our wounds will heal. Our aches and pains will eventually subside. Cast off the feeling of doubt, shout out loud, “Satan get behind thee,” and boldly step out the door. Once more we fight our way back into the trenches, doing His will, working toward helping others to see the light and the charity of which we seek to share.
Faith, hope and love; and lastly, let us not forget charity.