It is hard to imagine how Spiritual Gifts can battle each other. But the truth is…they can. The battle can be so intense that the church ends up licking its wounds while the lost look elsewhere for help like the Man in the Parking Lot.
Paul deals with this battle of gifts in I Corinthians 12…right before the love chapter. If the gifts are not unified through the leadership of the Spirit, then the body becomes disorganized and accomplishes little when God has bigger plans.
Paul explains how the body becomes handicapped by the very things God gave them to be used for good. If the gifts do not work together, the body can’t see, hear or walk and becomes unrecognizable to the world.
What are the signs and stages of gifts at war?
First of all, people can become passionate about the gift more than they are about the exercise of the gift. The gift begins to turn inward instead of outward and starts to try functioning on its own. An example would be the one with the gift of service who begins to see how much he or she is serving and how little others in the church serve. The godly passion for service is gone and the servant has turned inward. It is a form of self-amputation from the body.
Amputation of a gift in the body dramatically leads to the second stage…bitterness. Service is upset at all the people who do not serve and gets tired of serving if no one is going to help. Evangelism is upset that people do not have enough compassion for the lost. Gift Giving doesn’t understand why people don’t give more and begins to count how much they have donated to the church. Teacher does not understand why Service and Mercy skip Sunday School so often and judges their spiritual maturity by their attendance. Mercy does not understand Prophecy and Wisdom’s hurtful words and begins to avoid conversations with them in the hallway. On and on it goes until all are offended.
This emotion of offense leads to the third stage of the war…division. The body ceases to function as a whole. Its amputated members are bloody and growing tired of the others who don’t see things like they do. The gifts have fought… and everyone lost. God shakes His head and the Spirit grieves.
But now, don’t loose heart. God won’t let it end there with His children.
The great thing about God is that He can restore. He knows how to sew an amputation back on without it looking like a Frankenstein. His specialty is sewing for His Son’s Bride. This Called Out One – the Church – is from His mind and He loves her.
He cuts into the hearts as conviction settles in and does its work. Blame and bitter accusations are cut away and find their way to the floor to be swept up and thrown away by Grace. Hearts become honest as the Spirit uncovers sin and brings new life into old material. He weaves in and out with His thread as people tire of division and turn to Him for unity. He stitches and ties the knot as friendships are rekindled through confession. At times He makes a hem – telling a person to lay down the weapon and go no further.
Soon, the Mind of Christ begins to be seen. Hearts once again hear the Father’s voice and joy takes the heart to high places. Love over flows and each one is back to living out their gifts to the glory of God. As they worship, each one is thankful for the other for they know they need them and their gift.
Pretty soon, the church takes the place of the local bar. The Man in the Parking Lot is surrounded by ten people who seem different from his past friends…they sparkle inside with some sort of amazing love. Service can be heard saying, “I have clothes I can give you and come to my house to shower.” Mercy said, “I am here for you no matter what you have done in the past.” Then Leader said, “I’ll help you figure out the next step in this process” while Evangelism said, “Let me pick you up tomorrow so we can discuss some things.” Faith began to pray and Discernment could not help but smile. They all came together to love him with their gifts and the man finally found what he was looking for when he came to the Parking Lot in the first place….an amazing, forgiving, life-changing God.