Thursday, October 18, 2012

Discerning the Spirits

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God..." - 1 John 4:1

"I was raised in a tradition in which we were taught to welcome the gifts of the Spirit. ... As much as we were taught to welcome the gifts of the Spirit, we were also taught to discern the Spirits. My uncle taught me that one can recognize that a Spirit is to be welcomed if it leads us to feel more love for other people. The first marker of the Spirit's presence ... was a profound sense of the inestimable worth, beauty, and wonder of other people. Filled with the Spirit, we saw other people as luminous gifts to life, infinitely precious and unique. We learned to question people who claimed to be led by the Spirit but used that power to denounce others or to distance themselves from others self-righteously. We questioned the Spirits who brought fear and established fear-based hierarchies.

'By their fruits you shall know them'--this community found it possible that the Spirit could lead one to stand against injustice but in so doing to stand with love and in love, not in judgment or hate. To stand for justice was to offer a gift of hope to oppressed and oppressor. Testimonies were frequent in which people described ways in which the Spirit led them to see the prior limits of their love and the need to expand it, learning to open their hearts to people they had formerly feared and condemned. I saw people raised in homophobic communities compelled by the Spirit to relinquish those prejudices and embrace, with love and gratitude, lesbian, gay and bisexual [and transgender - DC] people and to work for justice with them within the church and within society.

...There is a heady power in self-righteous judgment, an intoxication in transgression and disruption. Many people did and do find these to be compelling and overwhelming. It was tempting to use the Spirit to control others, to mold them into a community that felt superior becasue of its gifts, and disdainful of the rest of the world.

And the fruits of the Spirit are these--love, wonder, joy, courage, peace, and resilience--the ability to see our complicity with injustice and, equally important, the ability to change, to move into new horizons of love, of service and of understanding."

- Sharon Welch, Discerning Spirit: An Interrelational Communal Perspective


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