Sunday, 19 February 2012

For times such as these...

Love does not dominate, it cultivates. – Anonymous.

Back in the late 1970's, much of Western Christianity found itself facing the whirlwind which became known as the Charismatic movement - a collection of experiences and practices which emphasised a renewal of the miraculous within the normal, even the mundane. The movement was certainly widespread and still encompasses many sections of the church today, but it's essential theology about such issues was thwarted all along - not because the miraculous isn't seen in the modern world, but because the definition of this within the movement was simply too narrow, and thereby actually missed the vitality of God's gifts amongst us by often majoring in minors.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul seeks to highlight essentially the same problem. Yes, Christians can manifest and express a whole range of spiritual gifts, and these can be useful, but without the core expression of God's life and work within this world - without Love - all such manifestations are empty.
It is the grace of God poured into normal life which is truly 'charismatic', which is why very commonplace aspects of life, such as marriage, are defined as 'grace-gifts', given by God to everyone - God's love and mercy is evidenced amidst creation as universal, but that often creates a problem.

In the Old Testament, God's purpose for the nation of Israel was that they would become a beacon to the other nations of a people who truly knew the care and manifest splendour of a God who made them rich in His love, but they refused constantly to fulfil such a role, often seeking instead to hoard or squander such an inheritance, and as a result, being left to their own futile devices and the consequences they bore. In our times, the church has been called to the same astonishing role - to 'hold out' to those around us the richness of the life God wishes for everyone through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, but as with our defining of spiritual gifts, we so often negate this role by effectively minimising the sphere and depth of the richness of God's love and calling amidst this world - it is far easier to narrow our understanding to what transpires in separate, private sections of our life than within the larger 'field' where the harvest is often ready - it merely lacks those willing to engage with such a realm.

Jesus teaches us that we all stand before a heavenly Father whose purpose and intent is to bring good gifts to His children - to rescue and restore us to the relationship we so need with Him and each other that is founded upon and grown through genuine Love.

Every day, amidst all the pain, we are still reminded of God's unceasing care and mercy towards us and His handiwork. Is it not time for us to truly convey the splendour of that to this deeply needy world?