Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gift or Vice?

Steve raises a good question - is charisma (our choice for naming a personal attractiveness which draws others) a gift which is redeemable though also able to be abused? Or is it like being born hot-tempered or with addictive tendencies - always a source of personal struggle and what, if left unchecked by God's grace and strength, will lead to all sorts of problems.

If it is the latter, then the redeeming aspect is that it is a thorn in the flesh, something to be mortified and which constantly reminds one to be humble and how thoroughly sinful the human heart is.

For many, this human attractiveness is unquestionably a gift which we should cultivate and employ, because it is useful in 'bringing people to Christ'.

An innate self-assurredness may also tend to foster security and confidence in others, but it may be nothing more than pride. If people want someone to 'follow' who exudes competence, that might be more appealing than someone broken and humble, but that doesn't make personal competence a gift to be used to God's glory.

I am not convinced that charisma, the natural way some people can draw individuals to themselves, is good. If they have a 'natural' skill at this that could easily be used to draw people to anything - even that which has nothing to do with Christ - then I truly wonder if this is a gift to be turned to God's use, or a temptation to be avoided.

Paul was trained in rhetoric, but chose to keep his proclamation simple and free from such techniques. Why didn't he use his training to help 'advance' God's cause - redeeming all that schooling? Can't the wisdom of men be put to redeemed use in the Kingdom of God?

We are not told to draw people to Christ, but that God/Christ will draw people to the Son/Himself. The charisma of a person should not draw people, but if anything should draw others toward an individual, then it should be only and nothing more than Christ in that person. There should be nothing about the person that we should desire him/her - isn't that what was said of Jesus?

Just because people (some people, certainly not all) were drawn to Jesus, must we conclude that he had a personal or innate charisma? Maybe the scripture is right - there was NOTHING about him that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected. He couldn't be ignored because he was radical and thrust himself into the nation's debate, but were people drawn to a magnetic personally? Or did seekers find in this most unlikely of backwoods tradesman something of God, and that drew them because he was a teacher come from God?

I believe we want to think that what we find personally effective should be good - it's good if it gets results. But have we lost too much along the way?

Okay . . . I know . . . I'm outside the popular opinions on this type of stuff . . . and I irritate others by even raising such questions. I will try and mortify, and others may try and redeem . . . and we will all trust in God.


Teresa said...

O.K. I think you started out right and now I feel antagonistic. I think charisma is a gift to be mixed with a seriously heavy dose of integrity and humility. Mother Teresa was obviously charismatic. "Quiet Charisma". I suppose it's really all semantics when you get down to it. We can nitpick definitions of charisma and gifts and so on. Whether a blessing or curse, charisma is something to be careful with. I just wanted to wade in there and say it's a blessing.

Vicki Sullivan said...

charisma |kəˈrizmə| noun 1 compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others : she enchanted guests with her charisma. 2 ( pl. -mata |-ˌmətə|) (also charism |ˈkarˌizəm|) a divinely conferred power or talent. ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (sense 2) : via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek kharisma, from kharis ‘favor, grace.’


best guess is that it can be used in the service of Christ or in the service of the flesh.