In the last blog I finished with a question: Of these three (Apollos, Paul & Peter) which had the ‘best’ personality?
The answer: None of them!
Each was called by God. Each had an apostolic ministry. Each had a major contribution to make in the early Church. All of which simply goes to show that there is no one sanctified personality type.
The Corinthians mistake was that they seemed to be picking favourites on the basis of personality rather than character. Over the centuries many church divisions have been about personality. Too often we disguise as theological disputes what actually are clashes of personality.
We are in constant danger of doing a mental ‘X Factor’ on people and judging them simply on the basis of their personality. God uses people of widely contrasting personality, E.g., Apollos, Paul & Peter.
Reading a new edition of John Owen’s “Overcoming Sin & Temptation” helped me see this. (Although I must confess to have only made it through about the first third of the book.) Owen says this:
“Remember that of many of the best Christians, the worst is known and seen. Many who keep up precious communion with God do yet oftentimes, by their natural tempers of freedom or passion, not carry so glorious appearances as others who perhaps come short of them in grace and power of godliness.”
God uses the most unlikely people. One of the things I have learned in 12 years of pastoral work is that sometimes people with unattractive personalities can be faithful servants of God and amazingly used by him. We are always in danger of being taken in by “glorious appearances” and being blind to “grace and power of godliness.”
Time and again I have seen people dismissed on the basis of their personality, and this dressed up as a theological issue, or more often a character flaw. (And – another confession – I have done this myself… I plan to say more about the difference between character and personality later on, but it is worth flagging up today.) Some people do have difficult personalities; and all of us have a personality ‘anti-type’ with whom we will tend to clash. And it is probably true that some personalities are simply not suited to certain jobs and roles. But we shouldn’t allow personality to be THE quality by which we assess people.
The search for perfect personality reflects our cultural assumption that life should be perfect. This is then reflected in the church swallowing the ‘health and wealth’ gospel. (Check out Mark Driscoll’s critique of Joel Osteen for a good example of how to respond to this kind of flaky theology.)
As so often, Eugene Peterson cuts to the heart of this, pithily exposing the danger of relying too much on personality tests: “In the jargon of the day, we pray: ‘sacrifice is not one of my gifts – I want to serve God with my strength, with my giftedness.’ It’s a strange thing, but sacrifice never seems to show up on anyone’s Myers-Briggs profile.”
Although they all had very different personalities, I think Apollos, Paul and Peter all knew something about sacrifice.
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