Join us as we explore God's ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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As you probably know if you’ve been following these last few weeks, I’ve been using the common lectionary for the focus of my podcasts. Today will be no different. The scripture in the lectionary that jumped out at me today comes from 1 Corinthians 12. I think it struck me because we so often want to be someone other than ourselves in our culture today.
Take a look at everything the world throws at us and see if you agree. Marketing implies that if you just buy this product or use this device you will look like the person in the commercial. If you own this contraption or consume that food, you will suddenly be rid of those unwanted pounds. But if we stop and think for just a few milliseconds, we know it’s not true. But we want so badly to be something we are not.
We want to be slimmer, taller, shorter, smarter, richer, wiser, faster, … In the next advertisement you hear, listen for those adjectives and see if you can relate to the visual and audible cues. “I want to be like that.” And the marketer assures you it can happen just by buying their product. Of course, in the tiny print, if you can read that fast and get close enough to read it in the first place, you find the disclosure statement.
“Results may vary and those depicted are may not be expected when used by the average consumer.” Did you catch that disclaimer? Does that mean when I get on that stair-stepper or mega-muscle rejuvenator that I won’t be all buff and beautiful after six weeks with just a ten minute workout every other day? Does that mean that if I take that little pill once a day that I can’t eat a dozen doughnuts for breakfast and still lose fifty pounds in two weeks? Does that mean that if I put that special cream on my head that I won’t have a gorgeous mane of curls in seven days instead of the bald spots I try to cover with my obvious combover?
We are obsessed with being someone we are not in our culture. That’s why advertisers are so successful here. A picture here, a few words there, and we extend our gullibility to the max and think the latest products will make us perfect. It won’t. Never has. Never will. Why? Read 1 Corinthians 12. God made all of us different. We all have unique characteristics, talents, skills. God gave us different abilities because he wants us to need each other. He wants us to be interdependent.
Notice I didn’t say God wants us to be independent. God didn’t create us to rely solely on our own efforts. He didn’t give any of us enough to exist as hermits. He wants us to live in community. He wants us to understand this amazing principle. We need each other. I think it’s why we see both a vertical and horizontal beam on the cross that depicts the means by which Jesus died. That wasn’t the only form the cross took in the days of Roman crucifixion. The execution style just meant that a victim’s arms were raised in such a way that the weight of his body eventually made it impossible for him to exhale. So the victim suffocated when his muscles finally gave out, his chest expand with air, and the carbon dioxide trapped in his lungs could not be released. It was like drowning in dry air.
So the Romans used crosses like we see depicted in all the paintings we see with a horizontal and vertical beam. They used some shaped like an X. They sometimes just pulled a victim’s bound arms straight up and tied to a tall branch to his toes barely touched the ground. All those means created the same effect. The victim couldn’t breathe after a few hours or days and they suffocated.
But we always see Jesus cross as a T. I think because our relationship to each other is just as important to God as our relationship to him. He wants us to live in community with each other and be interdependent. So he gives each of us different talents. I need someone else to fix my car, for instance. My wife forbids me to work on our cars because it always costs us a lot of money when I try to fix them. I always break more than I fix. I’ll admit it. I’m a horrible mechanic. So I don’t fix my cars.
But I’m pretty good at some other things. I’m able to see connections between different things that others can’t see. How they fit together to make processes more efficient or effective. I’m able to see through the fluff and unnecessary actions being done in a long series of steps and point those out as ways to get more done in less time. I don’t know why everyone can’t see those things. But my mechanic doesn’t know why I can’t change my oil without breaking my car. The answer is, God gave each of us different talents.
Paul expresses that well. He talks about it in terms of spiritual gifts, but the more I study God’s word and the expression of his love and grace to us, the more I see it isn’t just churchy kinds of things God has given us. I need someone to do certain things for me because I just can’t. Is that a gift from God when we can search out those people and have a meaningful relationship with each other? I think so. Doesn’t that make it a spiritual gift? Again, I think so.
The issue for me is not so much can a person preach or teach or provide hospitality or one of the other actions Paul mentions in his letters. The issue for me is determining what talents God has given you and how do you use those talents for him and for your neighbors? Remember, God wants us to be interdependent. He wants us to rely on each other. He never intended for us to be alone or to know how to do everything ourselves. He wants us sharing the things we do best with others so his grace can be seen and felt in the world.
God doesn’t want you to be someone else. He created you to be you. He created me to be me. I don’t think he would be real happy with the approach many of our advertisers take in trying to convince us to be someone we’re not. He wants us to take ownership of the talents and skills and gifts he has given each individual and use them together in community so his kingdom can grow.
It doesn’t take much to see how important those “unseemly” jobs can be. Ask New Yorkers when the garbage companies went on strike. I like to visit New York City, but one thing I don’t like about New York City is the smell about midnight. All those apartment dwellers have a tendency to put there trash out on the street the night before the trash truck comes. And between midnight and three or four o’clock in the morning, the city smells like rotting garbage. I can’t imagine what it was like when the trash trucks launched their strike.
God created us all. At creation, God looked at everything he made and said it was good. Nothing he made during those creation story events was identified as bad. He still creates and nothing he makes is bad. We corrupt and destroy and twist in our disobedience to God, but God makes all things good in his creative power. We too often try to be something he did not create us to be. We want to be something or someone else.
Maybe as we get through these first few weeks of this new year, we should just decide to be ourselves. How would the world be different if we all decided to just be who God made us to be? An interesting question, isn’t it? Go try it on for size.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.