When I was fifteen years old, I spent most of my time doing one thing: playing guitar. Screaming into the microphone for a punk rock band, painting my fingernails black and wearing guy-liner. I now consider much of that a youthful indiscretion, and before you judge me, go ahead and write a list of your youthful indiscretions and then we will talk. Eventually, my parents would rush into my room, demanding I TURN THE VOLUME DOWN. Understandably so, I couldn’t care if I offended anyone with my sound, I just wanted to be heard and create something others could enjoy with me. I loved, and still love, music and playing guitar. You might say that the volume has turned up over the years, but it took a mentor to come along and tell me that he believed in me. My fear of wanting to learn and the insecurity I felt when it felt like others wanted to turn me down. Turn me…
Well if we are each honest, most of us have heard those words before, except if you were not a musician they sounded like you should calm down and put your radical dream on the rocks. (Let’s be honest, how many kids want to be famous? But I am not talking about being famous, but being liberated.) This doesn’t help society, it cripples society. Rather than contributing, we end up assimilating into a system that doesn’t create, only devastates. The proverbial next-door-neighbor is always going to ask you to turn it down. The question is always going to be, what if you don’t? What if instead of turning it down, you turn it up?
Let’s go to the bible…
In First Corinthians, the church at Corinth has become rife with contradiction in action and thinking of God within community. The people became so consumed with self and indulgence that they used the spiritual gifts and communion as though it was only to bless themselves with. Whenever it comes to life, we are told our gifts are primarily to be shoved off into the corner of forgotten hobbies. This creates a culture of selfish power, only using those ideas for self fulfillment rather than for the fulfillment of others. When it came to Corinth this self-exaltation led to a super-spiritual culture of super-people and super-preachers. Whenever we give ourselves over to ourselves, this false narrative gets told to us: “You are the best that has ever been. You are more than you can fathom. Never before in the history of the world has there been anyone like you.” The true narrative is not centered around us, as we learned from Galileo–who proved that the earth is not the center of the universe–but is surrounded by a different story we are choosing to engage in from day to day.
…instead of offering your service to the world, why not shape the world with your service?
If the modern church were to face another Corinth situation, they would not have responded like Paul, even though they quote his words from the first letter to the Corinthians often. You see, the answer to the problem in Corinth was not less, but more. Listen to Paul from chapter 14, verse 5: “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.” When we examine the more experiential side of the church (pentecostal/charismatic) there are situations where so much emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit might eclipse the life of the Spirit in love, service and hospitality, if the church is not “careful.” When the critics come into the discussion, those who would rather sit in the stands than play the game are using phrases like, “tone it down,” or “let’s be careful not to get too emotional about the activity of the spirit.” Such phrases are spoken of by those who wish to police the gifted, not pastor them. And it is usually by those who fail to realize their version of christianity doesn’t exist in the rest of the world because without a vibrant relationship with the presence of God, one’s christianity doesn’t survive, much less achieve anything of importance. I am not advocating for more people to experience tongues or any of that, but when a person becomes more aware of a sense of God’s present power, it effects the tongue.
Should we calm down? No, Paul’s response is simple: do it more and do it well. Do what more? Speak in tongues, prophesy, get visions, dream dreams, etc…more. Shouldn’t we say less? Wouldn’t we turn it down? No, the answer is not less emphasis on power, just more demonstration of love. Take your gifts and express them with even more passion, but allow it to be focused passion. Passion consumed by service changes the world.
The gospel of the Kingdom is something far more than advice, so instead of offering your service to the world, why not shape the world with your service? 2,000 years ago, something happened. A young Jewish Rabbi spent years honing his love for God and for people, and when he finally put that love on display, more than one thing happened. A ripple effect occurred that will never end (Isaiah 9:7). Could you guess how many particulars were effected by this one act of being in Jesus the Nazarene? The ripple of effect is so large that careers have been launched, peaceful revolutions instigated, mercy given, forgiveness on a national level and hope restored to the hopeless, along with numerous orphanages for the fatherless.
Passion consumed by service changes the world.
This young Rabbi had a short life that affected and continues to affect lives all over the world. Only one kind of life can have this size of an impact. And what would have happened if He–and of course this is Jesus of Nazareth–would have listened to his family when they attempted to collect him because of supposed madness?
Who of us can know of the potential ripple effect our lives can have if we simply reach out and do something significant?