Both-And (1 Corinthians 14:15)

What is [the outcome] then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.

1 Corinthians 14:15

I must admit to a weakness in myself: I am not comfortable with some of the gifts of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit offers some gifts that, frankly, confuse me or cause me discomfort. Since neither the gifts nor the Spirit Who gives them are meant for my comfort — though the Holy Spirit does want to comfort me in my affliction, but that is another thing entirely — the gifts will not cease on my account. That said, there is an obvious error in the church in America and it is connected with Spiritual gifts.

Some churches focus too heavily on the mind. They have awesome Bible teaching and their doctrine is bang up to the elephant, but they lack real power and dynamism. People get saved in these churches, sure, but they strive and struggle without ever really being empowered or gifted by the Holy Spirit. They might accept one or two gifts — teaching and administrations, maybe — but shy away from others like speaking in tongues.

Then there are the churches that focus too heavily on the gifts of the Spirit. These folks are different and not always in a Christlike way. Where the first group may be seen as legalistic, this group is often seen as having no rules to speak of — lawless or licentious. These folks mean well, but they, just like their counterparts, are out of balance.

Too often, I fear, we (myself included) try to shove God into our either/or thought structure. God cannot, in our view, be both a God of order and give gifts like speaking in tongues, because the gift of tongues is just plain disruptive. We think that God cannot give us a gift and not expect us to use it, so we speak out and interrupt the teaching of The Bible. We fall into these errors, because we fail to understand that God is the God of both either/or and both-and.

Certainly, God sees things as either right or wrong, holy or unholy. There are places where God makes these stark, either/or distinctions. Jesus says that anyone who is not with Him is against Him and Joshua, inspired by God, tells Israel to choose whom they will serve: either God or idols. There are plenty of places where God tells us candidly that we cannot have it both ways. There are others where God straddles lines that we have trouble reconciling in our very binary minds. How can God be both just and merciful? How can He be all-powerful and yet we have free will? I cannot always explain the “how” behind the both-and doctrines I find in scripture, I can only accept them.

God calls me, as His child, to be as He is: both-and in places where both-and is appropriate. Paul says that he will pray with the spirit and … with the mind also; … will sing with the spirit and … with the mind also. The spirit and the mind must work in tandem. He cannot merely pray in tongues, because that is not profitable to the congregation. In private, he prays however God leads him, but with the rest of the body he must have both mind and spirit engaged if he is to be profitable to God and the body of Christ.

This is where I note that I have a pet peeve: I do not like praise songs that are not well thought out. If a song causes dissonance between my mind and my desire to praise God, I am no longer able to praise. The lyrics, I presume, made sense to the author and probably to a great many people thereafter, but I see them and the English major in me starts analyzing the poetry and dissecting it and making sure that everything is kosher when viewed through a Formalist (school of literary theory) lens. When everything goes well, I have another praise song to enjoy singing out to God. When things do not go well, I find myself wondering who thought this song was conducive to entering into God’s presence. What prompts discussion of this pet peeve? The fact that Paul says that he will sing with the spirit and … with the mind also. Too many song leaders, I fear, fall into the trap of singing with their spirit and not with their mind also. In our own times of praise, we can sing however the Holy Spirit moves us — no one but God needs to understand us. Corporately, we need to engage our brains and make sure that what we are singing will be broadly understood and that the congregation, as a body entire, will be able to sing with both spirit and mind.

And this is true of each and every gift the Holy Spirit gives. Paul lists gifts of giving among the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives and Jesus gave direction that our giving be done in secret so that our Father Who sees what we do in secret can reward us openly. We do not want to shame our fellow believers who have less than us to give or are not gifted in that way, so we should give as God directed us to. Those who are gifted in evangelism need to get out and spread the word and not try to drag along those of us who are not gifted in that way. Yes, Jesus told all of us to make disciples of all nations, but there is more to making a disciple than conversion. To be a disciple is to be a follower of the Teacher and His teachings. This means we need teachers to teach the converts and encouragers to encourage them to stay the course and those gifted in words of wisdom to help them understand God’s guidance and those who administrate to keep the rest of us organized. We need each and every gift that the Holy Spirit gives. As Paul writes elsewhere, each part is nurtured by what all of the other parts supplies. A body is an interdependent system of parts and sub-systems and all the parts are necessary — even if we do not know why (I am thinking here of the appendix).

We all, myself included, need to engage both our spirits — our spiritual gifting — and our minds. Our fellowships do not have a Brain Check by the door and this should give us some indication that our minds must be engaged. God gave us reason so that He might reason with us (Isaiah 1:18). Our spirits — our spiritual gift — must also be active. Let the givers give with gladness and the administrators keep us all organized and the teachers help us understand the scriptures and the encouragers spur us on to still greater devotion to our God and King. Let each gift be used to the glory of God and with our minds engaged and cooperating.

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