Scripture Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 based on the LCMS Daily Lectionary for August 20
Meditation: While I have recently addressed the idea of the common good in 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16, this is an important idea that returns frequently in this book. Here, I want to look at it from both a psychological and a spiritual development viewpoint. Of course, an immediate drawback is that these are generalizations, but I think that they still show an important point.
Psychologically, we are born in a “we,” a family of some sort, and in healthy development, we develop a “me.” This “me” can then rejoin into a “we” after it understands who their “me” or self is. Normally, this is a description of development from childhood through young adulthood.
I think that there may be a parallel experience spiritually as well. Spiritually, we experience a spiritual birth into a “we” relationship, Christ and his church, and as in the psychological development, we develop into a “me.” This “me” can then be rejoined into a “we” experience.
I offer a couple of immediate observations. First, I realize that this sounds abstract, but if you consider your experience as a child growing up in a family, it may make better sense. Second, it sounds all nice and neat, but it isn’t. There is overlap between “we” and “me” in the development from the beginning. Categories are nice tools for explanation, but they are generalizations.
Another observation, and I think the most important one, is that in this parallel development the psychological and the spiritual great influence and impact one another. Psychologically, a person may be developing their “me” when they experience a spiritual birth into a “we.” Sometimes, this is like mixing oil and water; the two don’t mix. The parallel experiences create internal confusion for the person.
It seems that this is one of the problems in the Corinthian church. Paul addresses this issue multiple times. They are strongly self-centered, individualistic, and focused on “me,” not “we.” This ends up being destructive for them and the church. When they most need the spiritual “we” experience, they seemingly do everything possible to undermine it!
Paul brings this up repeatedly in this letter. In speaking of eating food sacrificed to idols, Paul tells them, “… if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (8:13). Concerning the believers’ freedom, Paul says, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (10:24). With Holy Communion, Paul instructs them to consider others (11:33).
Finally, in reference to spiritual gifts, Paul says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7). The Spirit’s working among us is not for “me,” but “we.” The Corinthians did not understand this, and I suspect that, at times, neither do we! The common good is not all that common!
Meditate on God’s Word. Draw close to God each day. Listen to His Word for you.
Living the Word Today seeks to provide brief devotional thoughts for daily living from a passage of Scripture. It is not meant to be academic exegesis, but a humble attempt to listen to God’s voice through His written Word.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.