There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
This coming Sunday we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples and the disciples who have followed (us!), the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the recognition that through our diversity, we are one body in Christ.
“We are one body in this one Lord,” is a feel-good line that we love to sing on Sunday, but if we’re honest, we struggle with diversity. If we’re REAL honest with ourselves, we may realize that growing up in a certain culture has affected the way we view others. We may notice that we respect people of a certain gender or race more than others. And within our community, we can often struggle with negative feelings towards those that have a different personality than us.
Personality tests have been making their way through social media the last few years. “Answer 5 Questions and we’ll tell you which SpongeBob character you are!” “Choose a photo and we’ll reveal your most dominant personality trait!” “We know which Lucky Charms Marshmallow Matches Your Personality!” They’re funny and can be a great source of procrastination when you don’t want to do the dishes, but they hint at the truth that we humans want to be known and appreciated for the way we are naturally, the way that God made us.
Ten years ago I took my first Myers-Briggs test online and for the first time, I felt like someone was affirming the truth in my personality. “I’m not crazy! I make decisions almost solely off of logic and thinking, not emotion. I’m an introvert – I am reenergized after spending multiple days in a row completely by myself. I like to plan and be organized. I value structure – why don’t people give me time to prepare before throwing me a curve ball?!” These attributes aren’t crazy to me, but they are to some people who may have the opposite Myers-Briggs letters. The problem is that while learning about this personality test helped me value myself better, it didn’t help me value the people who had the opposite personality.
And then my husband started researching the “Enneagram Test”. This test assigns a number (1-9) that while telling you your positive traits, also will tell you what negative attributes you cling to during times of stress. You may be a type 2, “The Helper”, generous and demonstrative but in times of stress, you’re probably possessive and too worried about pleasing other people and stroking your ego through helping others. You may be a type 5, perceptive and innovative, but when you are unhealthy, you can be secretive and isolated. Or maybe you’re an 8. You are self-confident and a great decision maker, but you may also be confrontational. The point is that not a single person is good or bad. We have a personality that was gifted to us in our genes and formed through our experiences.
This Sunday’s gospel reminds us that the Holy Spirit has gifted us in different ways. To look at the person sitting next to me and notice only their negatives is quenching the Spirit’s work in their lives. Do I not believe that God will use their personality for the good of His kingdom? Do I not believe that God will use MY personality for the good of His kingdom? Have we forgotten that the early Christians probably suffered from the same doubts? It is clear they did not always get along. But the Holy Spirit moved in that upper room just the same. The Spirit manifests gifts differently to each individual. And if God is willing to use that person, my guess is I probably need to get off my high horse and see the good in each person.
The race that we are running is not a race against each other. We need each other to make it to that finish line. And the beauty of the Church is in its diversity, collectively and individually. The next time we are tempted to immediately look at the negative in our neighbor, let us remember that the Holy Spirit has gifted them in a unique way for the glory of God.
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)