Today is the Feast of Pentecost. For my reflections last year, see Pentecost 2008.
What’s interesting is that a lot of churches are celebrating Pentecost today, not just the Armstrongites. At my Latin mass this morning, the church bulletin was about Acts 2, and the homily concerned the Holy Spirit.
The priest said that the Holy Spirit was not about eccentric manifestations, but rather us becoming more understanding of the people around us. He was making a possible jab at Pentecostalism here, but his point inspires me to ask: What’s the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer?
I once heard Ron Dart say that the Holy Spirit was not given solely to inspire and enlighten us in our personal relationship with God, for it also equips us for our Christian mission and enables us to get along with one another. This was interesting, for Dart is often quite individualistic in his conception of the Christian life.
The Armstrongite movement was not really about “feeling” God. Religious emotionalism was often mocked, as was Pentecostalism. While I agree with Dart that the Holy Spirit is not only about us feeling good in our personal relationship with God, I don’t exclude feelings from the equation. In Acts 10:46, the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit and praise God as they speak in tongues. The feeling of warmth and peace that Pentecostals get when they’re baptized with the Holy Spirit is not a bad thing. It may very well be biblical!
I don’t think, however, that we should judge those who are not outgoing or happy or eerily at peace. That’s my problem with a lot of evangelicals! Many of them make acting happy into a legalistic requirement, as church becomes a place where people compete to show off how cheerful they are, thereby parading their (self-)righteousness. It’s kind of sickening!
The Holy Spirit was indeed about mission, in that he equipped the apostles to spread the Gospel to the world. We also see in Romans 12 and I Corinthians that the Holy Spirit enables Christians to edify one another within the context of the church.
I personally don’t see my life in terms of mission. Nick Norelli was commenting on his blog about Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, and he asked us what we thought our purpose was (The Purpose Driven Life). Many commented on enjoying and serving God, but my response was, “To get through the day with some degree of happiness, not to hurt others, and to help people when I can (or the opportunity presents itself).”
I don’t know what serving God means, to be honest. I really have no desire to convince people to love or believe in God, since there are many times when I cannot stand God. At the same time, I don’t want to persuade people not to believe in God, since who am I to say that faith doesn’t help others live good, fulfilling lives? I guess all I can do is tell my story and be honest about what I think. When that can edify people or bring them closer to God, great! But I’m not God’s salesman.
Where the Holy Spirit comes into all that, I have no idea. Is the Holy Spirit responsible for whatever edifying insights I present? Maybe. At the same time, I’m reluctant to say so because that would imply that my insights are infallible, which is far from being the case. I have the same issue with those who claim that the Holy Spirit inspired them to arrive at certain interpretations of Scripture. “I don’t need to know Greek, since I have the Holy Spirit guiding me,” they say. In some cases, they present an off-the-wall interpretation that does violence to the Greek! I’m reluctant to attribute someone’s subjective insights to the Holy Spirit–even my own! And yet, I’m equally hesitant to say that God doesn’t lead, guide, and inspire his children. Christ promised not to leave us orphans, after all!
Does the Holy Spirit enable us to get along with people? He doesn’t for me, I can tell you that much! But maybe I’d be worse without the Holy Spirit. I don’t know.
In any case, have a happy Pentecost! I’m taking today off, which is why I didn’t write about my comps reading.