Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-39, Exodus 25:8, 1 John 4:1-3
In a few short weeks, my husband and I will board a plane to China to bring home our son. We’ve never met in person. He’s seen photos of us, and he knows to call us “Mama” and “Baba.” But he doesn’t know us, not really, nor do we know him. Yet God has tethered our hearts to one another in a way I think I may not fully understand this side of eternity. God has made us a family even now, before we’ve met, and that is a fact that overshadows all others.
I’m nervous about bringing our boy home. I’m excited, overjoyed, in tears with anticipation; but the unknowns that lie ahead make my chest tighten. I have to remind myself to practice what I learned when waiting for our first three children to arrive: Breathe. Just breathe.
I wonder how he’ll adjust to his new home, to his big sister and big brothers, to his two big dogs and the cat and the chickens in the backyard. I wonder how he’ll take to American culture and American food. But lately, I’m most nervous about the language. He speaks Mandarin; we speak English. Will we be able to communicate? Will he understand our botched renditions of “I love you” and “You are our son” and “It’s okay” in his native tongue?
How and what we communicate to our son matters. Everything we say, from playful banter to earnest conversation, should flow from our love and desire to care for him. Our words are rooted in the fact that we are family.
When Paul addresses the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 14, specifically the gifts of prophesying and speaking in tongues, he says some things that are tough for our modern ears to understand. But if we look at the chapter as a whole, we can see a theme emerge: “Seek to excel in building up the church” (v. 12). In this lengthy chapter, Paul acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is real, that the Spirit indeed gives gifts that can only come from God, and that these gifts are good and God-honoring. But in the same breath, he offers a warning about how these gifts are to be used—and, as importantly, why they are to be used. According to Paul, the reason is more straightforward than we might expect: “Everything is to be done for building up” (v. 26).
The Church, the body of believers, is God’s dwelling place on earth. Just as God’s presence filled the tabernacle in the Old Testament, His Spirit fills those who have put our faith in Jesus. The way we conduct our worship and our gatherings matter because God is in our midst, and “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (v. 33). Furthermore, our interactions and our meeting together ought to be governed by unity, not discord. We are a family—a family established by God Himself. Our words and actions are rooted in this eternal truth.
The diversity within the family of God is a beautiful, purposeful thing. May the Holy Spirit that binds us make our hearts tender toward our fellow family members, seeking to love the Church and build her up in all we say and do. May we worship in a way that causes the unbelievers in our midst to proclaim, “God is really among you.”