1 Corinthians 7:7 I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
The specific gift Paul is discussing here is the rather unusual one of celibacy, but this verse applies equally to all gifts from God. We have the tendency to want and/or expect everyone to be like us, and that just isn’t the case. This actually is the cause of a lot of friction between husbands and wives, because of all the differences between them. Equal rights and equal honor are certainly desirable and worth working for, but ignoring innate differences has made for a lot of problems down through the centuries. That said, this verse applies even to people of the same gender. The teaching on Motivational Gifts, by Don and Katie Fortune and others based on Romans 12:6-8, can be very helpful in understanding this whole picture. Each gift and combination of gifts has distinct characteristics, both strengths and weaknesses, so understanding them can help you understand not only yourself but those around you. Even though he understood that each person’s gifts were different, Paul still wanted everyone to be like him. How very human! We need to recognize that tendency in ourselves and stand against it, allowing each person to be the person God created them to be, while encouraging them to be true to God and the calling He has given them.
That last sentence is a huge part of my job description as a pastor. I tend to demand, subconsciously, that people be like I am in more ways that they need to be. I should not hesitate to say with Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) However, that doesn’t mean, “Do exactly as I do.” That distinction can be pretty difficult at times! I need to set an example, as Paul told Timothy, (1 Timothy 4:12) without requiring lock-step imitation. That produces imitation Christians indeed! Each person in my care is as different from me as they are from each other, but we are all alike created in the image of God and loved by Him, to the point that Jesus died for us. I’ve got to remember all sides of that, and rejoice in God’s perfect plan for us all.
Father, thank You for this reminder. As often and as thoroughly as You have taught me this, I still get exasperated with people for not being like me! Help me appreciate Your patience with me – and their patience with me – and extend patience and understanding to them. May we together grow into the likeness of Your Son, as You intend, (Ephesians 4:15) for the blessing of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!