Charismatic. What does this word conjure in your brain? For some, images of seemingly strange activities like speaking in tongues, prophesying and loud prayers come to mind. For others, it is simply a way of life.
I grew up in such churches, but they were not “charismatic” out of need for excitement, but just out of mere necessity. You see, my dad was a pastor in Clophill, a town located in Britain known for its gathering of witches every year on Halloween. When there is that much demonic activity, believers are not really allowed the luxury of choosing if they believe in such things or not.
My later years were spent growing up in a small, suburban church in Texas. They were rather in touch with the charismatic side, although I still lacked understanding about what that meant, because it was all I had ever known. One time, all the youth in the church were called to the front to be prayed for. I went up with clammy hands and a pounding heart and stood in a single horizontal line across the front to be prayed for. As I felt their approach, I glanced to my left and noticed that every single person before me had fallen over, or as the tradition terms it, were “slain in the Spirit.” Then I started freaking out. What if I didn’t fall over? Did I want to fall over? Were they pushing people over? Was everyone going to think I was a bad Christian if I didn’t? Could I fake it? Would it hurt hitting the cold tile? Needless to say, my mind was not on what was being prayed but on whether or not I would go down. Lets just say, I broke the trend—I was the only one who didn’t fall.
During college, I started attending another group. In the months I spent there, I witnessed even more “charismatic stuff.” Long story short—I got burnt out. I got tired of having faith for huge things and being let down, of trying to justify the behavior of “super-spiritual” people and why I didn’t always gel.
After all these experiences combined, I got a little hateful toward these “extreme” people—not in a blatant way, but more of a subtle, cautious and knowing attitude. But God wouldn’t have that. A few weeks ago, I was at my small, unassuming, never-too-over-the-edge church and a guest speaker came. Little did I know that he was one of the more well-known speakers of the charismatic community.
Let me back up. You see, God has been dealing with me lately on loving people better. Recently, I have come to realize that His command doesn’t mean just to love the homeless and poor, but also to love those that call themselves Christians—even those ones you don’t agree with. That day in church, He extended the command even further—love the people that you think are nuts sometimes. And not just that, having enough faith that God can work through these people. And I realized, God was right (shocker!).
I, the person who speaks about division in the church and asks the question, “Why can’t the different denominations just all get along?” was harboring an animosity towards a particular segment of the church that I had personal issues with. That wasn’t what Christ commanded at all. So I repented. And while these changes don’t happen overnight, my attitude is slowly changing as I begin to see what those gifts offer the body of Christ as a whole.
Perhaps what I am trying to say is this—you may be really good at loving what the traditional church has deemed the “hard to love,” but how are you at loving the people within God’s family that you don’t agree with? You know, the ones you don’t want to have any association with because your tattooed, vegan, pierced friends think they’re nuts. So much emphasis has been placed lately on loving the prostitutes and tax-collectors, the sinners of this day. And oh how we should love them … but how can we love them if we haven’t yet learned how to love our own family.