Gift Options

December 27th, 2007 • Category: Book of Acts
by Keith Phillips

Today’s scripture: Acts 22:22-29 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Keith Phillips):

Once I took one of those spiritual gifts inventory things. Lo and behold, among the other gifts that I was invited to claim as my own was the spiritual gift of martyrdom. Except for the honor of having the gift, it’s not one I’d readily choose. I’m really glad it didn’t show up under my Christmas tree this year. Anyhow, I figure it’s a gift that can only be used once; and I plan to save it for a very special occasion.

Obviously, I’m the wrong person to be commenting on the apostle Paul’s choice to play the Roman citizenship card so he could avoid receiving forty lashes. Along the way, Paul has even been warned that he if he returns to Jerusalem, he would be in danger of losing his life. He is willing to die for the cause of Christ. He just isn’t willing to be flogged when the Roman soldiers want to interrogate him. Is one instance necessary suffering and the other unnecessary suffering? How does Paul decide this?

I used to think, in a fuzzy-headed pacifist sort of way, that evil is absorbed in righteous suffering, therefore, I might intervene to prevent another’s suffering but ought to do nothing to counteract that which brings suffering to me. It was my take on the old “What would Jesus do?” He certainly spoke out against injustice when it affected others; however, when it came to the injustice of the cross, Jesus never spoke “a mumbling word.” Is that what I’m called to do, too, with or without the spiritual gift of martyrdom? If so, why didn’t Paul?

There are certainly injustices I will speak out against and act to prevent. The denial of significant human and civil rights to us who are gay, lesbian, or transsexual is an example of that. That abuse will no longer be tolerated.

Maybe the answer is like the presents which were under my Christmas tree. I knew exactly what to do with each one as it was presented to me, as I opened it. Trusting the Holy Spirit of God to guide me, I believe I’ll know what to do when potential suffering presents itself to me. Some of the time I may have the privilege to avoid it as unnecessary, like Paul did; other times I may be called to embrace it as redemptive suffering. Maybe that’s precisely how Paul decided — led by the Spirit.

Thought for the day: The gift of the Holy Spirit is Jesus born anew in my heart today. How do I claim that, and demonstrate it for all the world to see?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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