Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tellers of tales, painters of pictures

We all know that Jesus was a great story teller. Just look at all the parables he told. It must have been great sitting out on the hillside as He held you spell-bound.
We tend to think of Paul (the guy who wrote half of the New Testament) as much more serious. His stuff is fodder for theology, not imaginative, poetic, artistic.
But don't draw that conclusion too quickly. He painted some pretty good word pictures that could hang proudly besides Jesus' parables.

Paul tells us that the rag-tag collection of Christ-followers is like a human body. (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-27) Individually we have different purposes and goals, but put us all together, and we can accomplish a lot.
The see-ers and the do-ers each have a role. We really need to work together, led by the Head.
Quite a great illustration of the unity in diversity that we are.

To have the equipment we need to perform our particular function well, God has provided a tool box full of tools. (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11) Don't get hung up if there are 9 or 15 or 21 or maybe even 50 different things in that tool box, just step far enough back from the pictures Paul paints to realize that God has given us an incredibly diversified set of tools to use. Anything from music to speaking skills to serving to giving to organizing to miracles.
When your 'job' as part of the body requires you to do something, there will be something in the tool box to help you get the job done. I like to think of it like this: If you are a carpenter, you will tend to use tools like hammers and saws. If you are a mechanic, you will use mostly wrenches. The artist needs paint brushes, and the cook needs measuring cups. Each one may think their job is the most important, and their tools are the most useful, but we need everyone. And the whole tool box is available to everyone, well-stocked with whatever you might need. There might be a day that the artist needs to swing a wrench to fix his car, or the carpenter needs to measure some flour to make a cake.

Be ready to look beyond the illustrations Paul gives to see how vast and specific God's gadget box really is. Look at them as illustrations of truth, not as an exhaustive list. Don't just see 'pliers'. See needle-nosed, insulated, wire-stripping pliers. Kind of like the biggest Swiss Army knife you could ever imagine.

Then there is Paul's picture of the soldier. (Eph. 6:10-18)
Of course, his soldier isn't carrying the latest assault rifle, driving the latest armored vehicle, or programming the latest guided missile. After all, Paul's exposure to military greatness would have been your classic Roman soldier.
Yes, the various items of his soldier's armor and weaponry are significant, but take a step back from the picture and visualize a fully equipped, battle-ready warrior. Just because Paul didn't mention some of today's technology doesn't mean that we aren't up-to-date in our equipment. In whatever sense that our 'job' involves spiritual conflict, God has provided us with the protection and gear we need to be successful.

See, Paul was a bit of an artist and poet as well as a preacher, especially when you allow his words to stimulate your own thinking on the diversity of our place in Christ. Look around you and see how varied our purposes and function are. Be glad you don't have to do it all yourself! Really be glad that you have a wide array of apparatus to accomplish your assignment. And be sure to thank Paul for giving us some vivid pictures to encourage us to succeed.

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