1 Corinthians 12:7-11
PASSAGE: 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.”
QUESTION: I’m curious about how “tongues” and the “interpretations of tongues” are interpreted metaphysically.
COMMENT: Paul is writing his first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus, where he had gone after spending some 18 months in Corinth establishing a ministry there in alignment with his understanding of the message of Jesus Christ. But Corinth was a notoriously wild place, with a wide range of religious practices, and the congregation quickly fell into factions and disagreements about the teachings themselves and the forms they should take. Word of these disputes has reached Paul, and he is anxious to calm things down.
Apparently a central issue was that some people, practicing certain specific spiritual gifts, felt that they were more important than others. In this passage, Paul is affirming “diversity in unity.” “Spirit”—the Christ Presence of God that is the true identity of each person—will express in a variety of ways. Some people will have one gift, others another. “Speaking in tongues” refers to a kind of elevated meditative state in which some people express verbally with sounds that are not words. Metaphysically, I think it relates to a God-given ability to express spiritual Truth in ways that are clear to a variety of people—to meet them where they are, and communicate in images, words and energies that they understand.
What’s important is that there is no hierarchy of importance—there is only the Christ, equally present in all. The only important question is whether one affirms and embraces that Christ energy as embodied and taught by Jesus Christ. If so, then the expression of that energy is to be trusted—in whatever form it may take.