March 24, 2023: Unity in Variety

Today, we look at a Day 3 text from this year’s summer curriculum, “Holy Trinity, Wholly Love.”


Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:4-13

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.



Unity in variety.

That is what the Holy Spirit is all about. (Or one of the things the Holy Spirit is about. She’s a busy spirit!)

Today’s reading is a beautiful depiction of how the Spirit cultivates variety to create harmonious unity.

In the first paragraph, Paul rattles off examples of the various gifts of the Spirit, though it is certainly not an exhaustive list. Paul makes the point that we aren’t all equipped to do the same things. We all have different skills and talents to share.

As part of my work with Camp Mount Luther I am currently pursuing certification in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a personality assessment tool. One of the first things I learned in the certification program is that, according to the MBTI, there are 16 different personality types and none is better or worse than another. They are simply different, unique, diverse, each possessing their own skills and abilities.

I recently spoke with a pastor who planted a church. He spent the first few years literally going around knocking on doors in the community, trying to drum up a congregation. He told me that all told he knocked on 4,000 doors in his early years. He was elated as he spoke about what were, to him, the glory days of his ministry.

I went white as a sheet when I heard it—just the thought of it brought me anxiety. Knock? On someone else’s door? Someone you don’t know? ARE YOU CRAZY!?

This pastor and I have almost identical personalities according to the MBTI with one exception: he is an extravert and I am an introvert. He knows everyone. Everyone. Because his gift for ministry is being out in the community, making connections and friendships. My gift is being in my office, having deep, one-on-one conversations or quietly wrestling with my sermon for the week.

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

And thank God that the Spirit hands out different gifts! If we were all the same, we’d be like a one-wheeled tricycle, a one-sided seesaw, a car with square wheels. We wouldn’t get very far. Paul’s second paragraph is all about how these various gifts come together to create harmony. All the gifts, Paul says, contribute to one body.

Here is the wild truth of the Scriptures, a truth we have long forgotten: unity is not the result of homogeneity (everyone being the same, thinking the same, acting the same) but of harmony (different people with different skills, different worldviews, different values coming together in service to God and one another). So much of our public discourse these days seems focused on trying to get everyone to agree to the same principles, values, and ways of life. But so much is lost when we seek homogeneity. Read the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Humanity all speaks one language and has one purpose and is completely homogeneous. And what does God do? God blasts humanity with heterogeneity (variety). God instantly creates a bouquet of languages and cultures and difference. God doesn’t want us all to look the same or act the same or claim the same nationality. God is not interested in the whole world becoming Jew or Greek (or American for that matter). In the Spirit, as members of the body of Christ, we are not homogenized (there is no Jew or Greek [or American!]), rather we are harmonized: all of us with our different gifts of the spirit united in service to God and one another.

–Jim Vitale

P.S. If all this sounds interesting to you, be on the look out for information about a personality and spirituality retreat coming to Camp Mount Luther in the fall!



Spirit of variety,

Help us to remember that you love variety and find excitement and beauty in our differences (physical, spiritual, ideological, and all). May we learn how to come together in harmony, rather than homogeneity, so that we might be the body of Christ.