Matters of Faith: For the Good of the Whole

By Rev. J. Loren Russell, BA, MDiv.

1 Peter 4:8-11
“Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins. Welcome people into your home and don’t grumble about it. Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen.”

As we approach the celebration of the birth and work of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wondered what would be of concern to him in 2019. One of the things I think he would be concerned about is the abundance of gifts given to each individual, and the use of those gifts for individual achievements rather than for the collective good.

An example can be seen in the movie, “The Untouchables,” where Robert DeNiro, playing the role of Al Capone, addresses his underbosses sitting at a round table. Notwithstanding the gruesomeness of the scene, he makes a significant point. He tells them that a baseball player has an opportunity for individual recognition when he stands at the plate. Along with that opportunity, he says, the player is challenged to remember that the collective good of the whole (team) is more important than individual recognition or accomplishment. The batter might be able to hit a home run, but if the team needs a bunt, a home run only delivers individual recognition.

Peter writes about gifts we have been given and their use. He says that no one is without a gift. Gifts are given to everyone. When you read the text, you’ll see that Peter says that you are to use your wonderful gift in the service of others. He says if your gift is speaking, then preach God’s message; if it’s helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Whatever your gift, it is to be used to help others while glorifying and showing appreciation to God. The implication is that your gift is only good when used to help others. When you share your gift, you are blessed as the giver, and the receiver is blessed because of your gift.

Both Peter and Dr. King preface their actions by telling their respective readers and listeners that they are to sincerely love one another. Whatever gift you have, if it not undergirded with love, it is no gift at all. Peter says that loving one another covers a multitude of sins and Dr. King led the Civil Rights Movement on the foundation of love.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

While it may be nice to achieve individual recognition with the gift we have been given, the blessings are in the giving of that gift to others so that their lives are enriched and their souls are redeemed. What King might say is that we have made a lot of individual advances, but we give honor to God whenever we are concerned about the needs of the collective whole. Might I suggest intentional love as the answer to Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?”

Be Blessed!

Rev. J. Loren Russell is an associate minister at both Goodwill and The Greater Universal Baptist Churches in the Bronx, President/CEO of The JLR Company for Church Financial & Strategic Consulting, and hosts “Matters of Faith – The Radio Show” on Soul 1 Radio, Mondays 8:00 – 10:00 PM. or by phone at 626-226-1448. Be sure to friend “Matters of Faith” on Facebook, Twitter (@jlorenr), and email us at matteroffaith.mof@gmail.com.

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