False Distinction Between Gifts and Roles

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When was the last time you took a spiritual gifts inventory or answered a church survey to see how God might be leading you to serve in your church? Maybe you are in ministry to women who have particular gifts and talents, but they need guidance in knowing how they translate to the community of believers. Many people have knowledge or insight about their gifts before they even pick up the pencil to fill out a questionnaire, but these instruments can become wonderfully useful tools of discovery for the church.

But I pause to consider if some women in the church, instead of searching for ways to use or discover their gifts, are actively suppressing the identification and use of them as a twisted act of selflessness, or perhaps - and equally as worrisome - they are confusing gifts with roles. GFL's managing editor Caryn Rivadeniera's recent book, Mama's Got a Fake I.D., has caused me to examine this issue a bit closer. In my review of her book on my blog, I offer a possible reason why embracing this aspect of identity is difficult for some women, attributing it to a contemporary form of asceticism - a denial of pleasures for some sort of spiritual attainment.

Some women, I am learning, are uncomfortable discussing their spiritual gifts if they are not identical to how they function in their roles, because for them these gifts might overshadow what they perceive to be the true functions of a woman, wife, or mom.

Yet Paul had no problem with any member of the church desiring spiritual gifts; therefore, giftedness and function/role ought never to be pitted against each other, especially in this way. How a woman is a wife and a mom and how she serves within the body of Christ will both be impacted by her personality, her interests, her talents, and her gifts. Enabling a false distinction between the two creates a dualism God never intended.

In developing clarity on this, another elephant appeared in the room. When gifts and roles are pitted against each other, an important and valid distinction is lost between self-denial and selflessness, the latter which we find as the example of Jesus who gave his life for the church. We also find that it is selflessness, not self-denial, which is the foundation for biblical submission. When women focus their energy on denying or refusing to embrace God-given aspects of who they are in an effort to preserve or protect the image they have of wife and mom, the biblical teaching of submission also falls prey to becoming an act of negation ("giving up") instead of a positive act of love ("giving to").

May05, 2009 at 9:44 AM

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