Uncertain sound

1 Corinthians 14:1-12
Apparently, a lot of kids wanted to play drums in junior high. I was one of them. Our band director, though, made us try other instruments first. I liked the look of the saxophone and could see myself playing it. But my reed skills weren’t worth developing, I guess. I tried a trumpet, too. That wasn’t any much better. It turned out okay because I got to be a percussionist, which is what I wanted to do.

I can’t help but think about that after reading today’s passage from scripture. “Unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?

I suppose my trumpeting skills wouldn’t have been enough to rally the troops.

That passage is from 1 Corinthians 14. It’s helpful to remember the inner turmoil the Corinthian church faced. They were not a group that practiced the unity of Christ. While there is much more to say about that, for today, let’s focus on the issue of spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit endows us all with these gifts. I suppose the Corinthians would have affirmed that. But they also considered some gifts more important than others. As a result, if yours is the more important gift that must make you the more important person.

That’s a problem. 

The apostle Paul wants to make sure they understand the nature of these gifts. You’ll recall he finished 1 Corinthians 13 by saying the greatest of faith, hope and love is love. Now, he opens chapter 14 by telling the Corinthians to pursue love. Ranking yourself over and above others in the body of Christ isn’t pursuing love. That goes against the nature of the gifts, which is to build up the church. Disunity and pretentiousness do not serve the church. They serve the selfish desires of those who impose them.

Part of pursuing love, then, means discerning what gifts the Spirit has given you. Not choosing the one you think brings greater accomplishment or status. For the Corinthians, speaking in tongues was that gift. It’s like how we all wanted to bang on the drums in junior high. But such a selfish pursuit seems to make you a “lifeless instrument” with an uncertain sound. You certainly can’t make any sounds the church needs to hear.

The church today has its own problems. Some the Corinthians knew and others more relevant to us. God’s church, though, still needs to be built up. Not numbers, but “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” I’ll say it a different way: The church needs your spiritual gifts to grow strong in faith and experience the presence of God.

Stay blessed…john