Integrity - thrive UMC Official Blog


1 Corinthians 2:6-16

               This Sunday marks week two of our series called “Securely Us: Unwrap the Secret Gift of Being You.”  And in this series, we have one goal in mind: to help you overcome your insecurity by discovering the gift that God has made you to be. That’s it. Overcome your insecurity by discovering the gift that God has uniquely made you to be.  So today I want to start you all off with a very simple, but a very life-changing reminder: God made you to be a gift.  God made you –God made this church- to be a blessing for others.  You are not a burden. You are not a worthless pile of atoms that just happens to be temporarily sentient.  God made you because the idea of you so delighted God that God decided: “I’ve gotta have me one of those!” And that is the basis for the cure to our mortal insecurity: you are a living example of God’s delight.

            So we’re going to dig into the delight God has in you, so that we can find that gift you have to share, so that you can grow to share it.

            And the tools we’re going to use to do that digging are two-fold: we’re going to keep reading through the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth; and then we’re going to use a tool new to many of us called the Enneagram. 

            Turn with me, if you will, to our reading for today.  It comes from 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 6-16.  Paul is reminding the Christ-community in Corinth of the gift they have to share –because, get this- conflict had arisen in their ranks, so that they ended up neglecting their giftedness! Can you believe that?  Can you believe holy people could ever let something like a squabble over differing leadership styles, and a sexual scandal, and a conflict over what to do next could cause these saints to forget about the gift God had given them?  No way! What, are these people from Mars or something? 

            Anyway, let’s read what Paul has to say to them. Here we go:

What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. It is a wisdom that none of the present-day rulers have understood, because if they did understand it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory! But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.[a] 10 God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. 11 Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except God’s Spirit. 12 We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. 13 These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people.14 But people who are unspiritual don’t accept the things from God’s Spirit. They are foolishness to them and can’t be understood, because they can only be comprehended in a spiritual way. 15 Spiritual people comprehend everything, but they themselves aren’t understood by anyone. 16 Who has known the mind of the Lord, who will advise him?[b]But we have the mind of Christ.

            So this is how Paul articulates their gift: they have a special kind of wisdom.  The Holy Spirit, which dwells in them, gives them access to God’s Spirit. Paul says, “God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them?”

            Now what’s interesting about this is that Paul seems to be suggesting that the way to gain knowledge about “the depth of God” is to search the Spirit within us. Where we might expect Paul to tell us to study the scriptures more, or to partake in a religious ritual, or make a sacrifice to witness the mystery –he instead invites us to search the spirit within. And remember, most of the people he is addressing here are Gentiles –most of them didn’t grow up with an understanding of the scriptures, and many of them were uneducated and totally illiterate. Since they weren’t Jewish, they couldn’t go to the synagogue to learn more from a Rabbi.  But still they can access God, because they were already given the gift of the Holy Spirit, which dwells within them. That has made them spiritual people and because they are spiritual people, they have, as Paul concludes, “the mind of Christ.” 

            Very quickly, I want to give you all a quick snap-shot of what Paul is talking about here.  When Paul is comparing ‘worldly wisdom’ with ‘God Wisdom,’ he is drawing a contrast between what I call ‘small mindedness’ and ‘big mindedness.’  And we almost immediately know what that looks like, don’t we?  When someone is acting small-mindedly, they’re just thinking about themselves and their most immediate concerns and worries, right?  When people live out of ‘small-minded’ mode, they don’t think about the other people they share the circumstance with.  It’s like if someone cuts you off on the interstate, and you swing up next to them and share a wave that neglects the inclusion of three select fingers –that’s a small-mindedness ruling the road, right?  They were small-minded by driving as if you and your car did not exists; and you were small minded because your wave signaled something far short of compassion and forgiveness. 

            So here Paul isn’t saying the world is bad –he’s saying that the common default-setting of most people is small mindedness.  People invest most of their energy concern with only themselves.  They don’t tend to think about, or act for, others.  And still today, we can see that that’s true, can’t we?  How often do our own leaders and representatives fail consider their common people, let alone those who dwell on the other side of our boarders?  Yet, in contrast to that, nothing is bigger than the mind of God.  God thinks of, and cares for everything and everyone.  God’s delight is not hampered by labels or boarders.  So when we have the mind of Christ, we cannot be small minded.  We cannot neglect the lost and the left out, the needy, the widow, the orphan, the underdog.  Because those are God’s children too.  And if we find ourselves acting out of our small mind, thinking only of ourselves, then we have to be re-minded in Christ.  We have to be restored in our spiritual wisdom.

            And to help us reconnect with our spiritual wisdom, we have the Enneagram.  The Enneagram, following Paul’s example, draws us to spiritual wisdom by leading us to look within.  It causes us to examine our own spirit, so that we might be opened up to, and grow in our connection with, the depth of God’s Spirit.

            [First slide: Enneagram diagram]

            The way the Enneagram helps us do this is by focusing on our motivating desires.  Everything we do comes out of, and is motivated by, inner desires.  And the Enneagram has identified nine different fundamental human desires.  All of us possess all nine of them, but we prioritize them differently.  And the central theory of the Enneagram holds that one of these desires ends up rising to the top in each individual human. And that desire, by late childhood, has become ingrained in us, so that it ends up being a kind of default, or auto-pilot setting for us.  And it steers our lives.

            To show you what I mean, we’re going to look at our first type, which is type one.

[Slide 2]

  The motivating desire of Type 1s on the Enneagram is to be good.  The primary craving of 1s is to have integrity, and to be balanced.  And this speaks to a part of all of us, right?  But for Type Ones, this is the autopilot that steers the airplane of life, and it shows through in practically everything they do.  That’s why type 1’s are called: ‘The Reformer” or sometimes they’re called “The Perfectionist.”  Because 1s want –more than anything else- to be good, and they want everyone else around them to be good too. 

And that is their gift: ones consciously and actively do what they can to make themselves and the world around them a better place.

Now if you’re wondering if this is you, here are a few statements that tend to ring pretty true for type 1s. So as I read these aloud, if you find some strong resonance with the statements, you might be a 1.  [Slide]

  • “I have always tried to be honest and objective about myself –and I’m determined to follow my conscience no matter what the cost.
  • “It seems that I am living with a judge inside my head: sometimes the judge is wise and discerning, but often it is simply stern and harsh.”
  • “I do not understand why so many people have such lax standards.”
  • “I hate mistakes, and so I tend to be extremely thorough to make sure things are being done properly.”

The world needs 1s. 1’s literally make the world a better place.  They are called ‘The Reformer’ because often it is 1’s who lead the charge to bring about big and necessary changes.  In fact, most experts on the Enneagram identify the Apostle Paul as being a type 1 –because he spent his whole life trying to make his faith more open and accessible to non-Jewish people.  And there is no doubt in my mind that Christianity would not be what it is today, without him. Next to Jesus, Paul is probably the second most influential person in the course of Christian history.  That is the power of ones: whatever they care about, they find ways to make it better.

But for every desire we find on the Enneagram, there is also an accompanying insecurity. And because 1’s have their spirits focused on wanting to be good, they also –and usually at the same time- are intensely concerned that they are not good enough. After all, there is always room for improvement, right?  And sooner or later, this will lead to a problem for 1s and the people they share the world with. 

I want to share with you all a quick story about what it can be like to live with a 1.  It comes from the book The Road Back to You:

Walter is a tax attorney with a prestigious Wall Street accounting firm.  When he comes home from work he likes the house to be clean, the kids to be bathed, dinner to be on the table and the world to be rightly ordered…

One night Walter comes home from work and the house is clean, the kids are bathed, and dinner is on the table. Now you’d think Walter would put his briefcase down and say something nice like, “Wow, this is awesome!” But the first thing Walter does is point at the couch and say, “The cushions are out of place.” (p.95)

Remember how it felt the last time someone pointed out that you had a stain on your shirt, or received advise on how to be a better spouse, parent, or just a better human being. Regardless of how true or helpful the insight may have been, most of us do not readily welcome criticism –especially if that criticism isn’t also balanced with some kind of praise. Left unchecked, criticism will always lead to resentment!  That’s how it feels to live in the skin of a 1: the eye of their inner critic is incessantly drawn to the problems.  And sometimes they have a hard time even seeing the things that are pretty great, right in front of their faces.

So the world needs 1s to help it continue to grow better, but 1s also need people in their lives to help them see and live into the good that is already present –people like 7s and 9s (which we’ll get to). Without a strong and reliable connection to the other human desires, 1s –like all other types- will suffer dis-integration. Their gift –if left too isolated- will become a curse.  So in addition to helping us identify our driving desires, and the patterns of thought and action that can accompany them, the Enneagram also shows us what it looks like to be healthy according to our type. 

Here is a description of 1s at their highest level of integration, taken from the website

[1s] Become extraordinarily wise and discerning. By accepting what is, they become transcendentally realistic, knowing the best action to take in each moment. Humane, inspiring, and hopeful: the truth will be heard.

Which is awesome, right? We’d be living a little closer to heaven if 1s like that were leading the charge.   But at the other end of the scale –at the lowest level of integration is this:

[1s] Become condemnatory toward others, punitive and cruel to rid themselves of wrongdoers. Severe depressions, nervous breakdowns, and suicide attempts are likely. Generally corresponds to the Obsessive-Compulsive and Depressive personality disorders.

Now, regardless of your type, the key to overcoming your insecurity is to know both the value of your gift and also its limits!  There is great treasure to be had in yearning for goodness –and in the chase to be a people of integrity.  But if that becomes our sole and exclusive focus, then the cost for you will be the loss of the experience of peace, rest, and joy. 

Before we close today, I just want to pass on some practical pointers for dealing with the voice of your 1 –whether it’s in your head, or coming from the mouth of a neighbor:

  • Get to know your inner (or for others, outer) Understand its habits, so you can recognize when it is at work.
  • Practice forgiveness (start with yourself) Be intentional!
  • Make joy a spiritual discipline.

These steps will help us move from our small-mindedness, into the Christ-mindedness that spiritual people have access to.  It all comes back to compassion: passion that is connected and sharing.  1s are worthy of both being heard and of compassion.  May that be the spirit that guides us into the future.

Let’s pray.  

Communion Liturgy, P. 12