Each of us are created with strengths and weakness, and each of us are given different personality types. Imagine this situation: You are at a party, and there is a big, beautiful crystal bowl full of jelly bellies on the end of one of the tables. You are standing there talking to someone and as you use your arm to paint a picture describing your story and your elbow knocks the crystal bowl to the floor and it shatters into a million pieces. One person runs over and immediately starts scooping up the broken glass and spilled jelly bellies, another reaches over and pats your arm and says, “Don’t worry, it could have happened to anyone!” and the third (probably echoes of your father ringing in your ears) says to you, “You know, you should probably watch what you are doing and be more aware of your surroundings”.
Three perfectly normal responses to the same exact situation. No one is right, no one is wrong. The first person is a servant; he sees a need or a problem and wants to help make it better. The second person is a person of mercy; he sees the shame and embarrassment of the offender and wants to comfort. The last person is a teacher (or prophet, in Biblical language); he sees the cause of the problem and wants to help the person learn and grow how to not make the same mistake again.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
– 1 Cor 12.4-11
We see that God creates us all with unique personalities and He gives us outpourings of gifts in the Spirit. Most importantly, we see that He gifts and prepares us differently for the common good (1 Cor 12.7). When someone breaks a beautiful piece of china, he will be embarrassed and needs to be comforted, the mess needs to be cleaned up, and he needs to learn how to be more aware. Now, this is a weak example because most of us are aware of our need to not knock over expensive bowls, but in a situation of moral dilemma or sin, the teacher/prophet has a substantial role. All three dynamics are helpful and necessary for the growth, development and health of the Church.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
– Eph 4.11-13
All three dispositions have strengths and weaknesses. The servant is typically not outspoken and can grumble while down on his hands and knees thinking, “Why am I the only one cleaning up this mess?!” The merciful one can be so concerned about others’ feelings that they excuse sin and hinder moral and Spiritual growth, and the prophet can be oblivious to feelings and deeply shame or hurt someone by only seeing the black and white.
But the three traits can help comfort, teach and serve the body. We are not created to live in a vacuum. We are created to help one another along the way, as iron sharpens iron (Prov 27.17). We are to help one another find the narrow path that few find (Matt 7.13). And God may give us different gifts and different times. The gifting and enabling of the Spirit is not static. Just because you are given mercy to handle one situation does not mean that you are forever only gifted in mercy! There will and should be times that the Spirit empowers you to be the prophet or humbles you to be the servant. He enables us and empowers us for the moment.
So let us seek to understand how we are wired. Let us realize the weaknesses encompassed therein, let us pray for strength against those weaknesses, and let us pray for openness and awareness when the other traits need to be exemplified. Let us strive to use our gifts, abilities and dispositions to build up the body – the Church – to unity, peace and love. And let us rejoice in the strengths of our brothers and sisters in Christ.