I think there is a sincere misconception in the church about the gift of tongues. I am not a theologian or a pastor, like most bloggers I am largely ignorant of the things I write. But I write because as this issue now stands in my mind, I have had an epiphany which goes against what I have been taught.
If you read 1 Corinthians 12-14 you will read about spiritual gifts and sandwiched in between is the famous “love chapter.” That sounds strange–to have a chapter so renowned and so obviously about love set between the words of Paul explaining the Holy Spirit’s work in the church. But it isn’t strange. Paul wrote about how the Holy Spirit works through us to produce beautiful works. Some are gifted orators. Some can open their mouths and suddenly the world makes sense and everyone is motivated to live for Christ. Some can explain a concept or show how to live life, and people get it. They understand what is being taught. Some are intuitive. They listen to the Spirit’s teachings and relay them on to the people who need them. These people tend to be in the spotlight. We want to be them.
Paul began explaining that though not all gifts are created equal, we all are honored. We all have different gifts. What unifies all of these gifts? The Holy Spirit of course. But what do we all need more than gifts? Love. We are to love one another. We are to love people unselfishly. We are to show true love. We are to show love that isn’t deserved, requested, or earned. We are to show impossible love. How? Answer: The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has never been emphasized in my church. He is that third person that we talk about during salvation and almost never afterwards. Tongues are also a touchy subject. The gift of tongues has been eradicated. Because of such and such that happened at some point in history, the gift of tongues and healing really don’t happen the way they did in biblical times. Or so we are taught. I said I wasn’t a theologian and I don’t have my seminary degree (yet), but it’s my understanding that tongues can be translated as the literal anatomical tongue or languages. It is also my understanding that the singular tongue is more closely translated giberish. Being interested in translating the bible, this information really connects with me. I have heard stories of people speaking and the Holy Spirit translating the speech into the language of the audience. It’s found not only in the New Testament, but around the world with missionaries and laypeople. If that’s not the gift of tongues being used, I don’t know what is. The reason we like to manipulate the words of the Bible (in my humble uneducated opinion) is that we don’t want to end up like those crazies screaming in random giberish for attention. That is what the gift of tongues has been turned into. And that is why there is such a harsh reaction to the word tongues in the Baptist church. We’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.
My heart is for people groups who speak (or sign) languages other than my own. Evangelists have often tried to make me feel guilty for not wanting to go to the mall and hand out tracts or talk with people. I feel awful because I just can’t bring myself to invite friends to church or share my faith. I would seem too judgmental. Maybe all of these are excuses, but what I have realized is that just because I don’t find myself skilled in these traditional areas, it doesn’t mean that I am not called to introduce people to Jesus. I am simply called in a different way. Through translation work or, the gift of tongues, if you will.