1 Corinthians 12:12-31
So we’ve started in on the idea of cultural influence, looking at some ads and considering what “felt need” the companies wanted us to have to get us to buy their products. We saw some patterns, a central underlying message–
* the exalting of self: in nearly every ad there was a central character that we were intended to associate ourselves with. And the felt need focused on how such-and-such product would satisfy our lives, and bring order to disorder or meaning/adventure to boredom. The idea being that life is all about the next thing that I need for it to be satisfying to me.
* competitive/superhuman spirit: the characters we were to identify with were the kind that we should want to be like, perfect or exotic people. “The most interesting man in the world.” Or, they were getting through life in an extraordinarily perfect, efficient way. Or, they were loved and adored. Or, they had something that no one else had, that gave them the edge on others. All in all, a message tapping into our desire to be perfect, or the lie that we can be everything, all the time, to everybody. And that we need no help from other people, or from any god.
* ideas on success/happiness: there are subtle pictures of what we should strive for. More comfort, more fun, less work. Bright, shiny things. Beauty and being desired. Noteworthy deeds and the envy of others.
All in all, the ads tap into our selfishness and striving for self-fulfillment (through things). It’s a cultural influence that can make it hard to really embrace what Paul describes for the church. I hear 1 Corinthians 12 focusing on two points: diversity and unity. How the gifts of the Spirit are all uniquely different, but how they still flow from the One source.
Seems like ad men would have us isolated in our homes in front of TVs, with phone in hand to order the next thing to try to be happy, with delivery people dropping it at the door so as not to interrupt the cycle of watching, buying and delivering. If that went as planned, we’d all have Electrolux appliances, Jameson Irish Whiskey in the cabinet (along with the Dos Equis), a Camry in the garage and Febreeze in the air. Every household. That’s not a very diverse picture to me. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for the unique expressions of who we are and the power of the Spirit living in us. Paul passes on a counter-message: everything you need, God has given and is giving you. All different. All for the sake of the community together. By the one Spirit.
One way to describe it all, the working of God’s Spirit in the faith community, is comparing it to the human body. That’s what we find in this passage.
So given the Corinthians’ culture, and their ideas about body/spirit in the last post, why use the body image? What does it tell us about spiritual gifts now?