by: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
Recently I have had the distinct privilege to meet, interact and befriend a marvelous human being. His name is Darnell Hamilton. Darnell is a prime example of God’s gracious empowerment of speaking in other tongues. Before I tell you how he is able to accomplish this feat of divine transformation I need to review just a few points of important beliefs concerning the term found in the Bible, “speaking in tongues.”
As some of you may have heard, there is just a tiny bit of theological conflict and ecclesiastical mayhem surrounding this sensitive subject matter. This confusion and conflict draws its origins all the way back to the foundations of the ancient Canaanite and Christian cultic followers. Its confusion and conflict are as old as recorded religious history and it is still unfortunately causing both physical and theological separation in much of the Christian world.
Of course this separatist tendency over the understanding and expressions of the Holy Spirit is an absolute shame because much of God’s creative genius is within its diversity. The irony is much of God’s foundational interaction with humanity is found and sustained within the breadth and width of the spiritual commonality provide by The Divine’s indwelling. Regardless of how you may go about describing that “indwelling” humanity should not primarily separate or alienate its created components but rather should initiate a bonding that is compelling and heavenly inspired. Simply put; the power…the purpose…the evidence of the reality of God is experienced and fueled by the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit and its corresponding divine understanding and empowerment.
The opposite of this theological stance then becomes also true. If there is no “bringing together” of the power, purpose, and evidence of the reality of God’s transformational presence then there can be no authentic, sustainable, and empowering relationship with the Divine. One can not “be a Christian” without becoming bound together BECAUSE OF the common or shared experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The innate challenge concerning the discussion of this subject matter is always wrapped up inside the on-going failure of human language. Our inability to transcend our own intellect, personal experiences, cultural/historical perspectives, or our language limitations will result in a failure of “understanding” concerning the Biblical concept of “speaking in other tongues.”
Let me just insert parenthetically, there is no doubt in mind, heart, and soul that speaking in “other tongues” is real in all of its authentic manifestations. Now that I have said this, I also need to tell you that it is my firm belief that far too many people have shrewdly and in the most self-serving manner high-jacked this divine gift for their own vanity and/or monetary purposes. However, we will leave that frustration to another time and place. For right now the most important “theological point” I want to convey to you is the authentic and sincere display of Speaking in Tongues is a discernable gift from an all-knowing and all-powerful God. It is NOT some outrageous philosophical or transcendental expression or oddity of neo-pentecostalism. It is tangibly real. When it is authentically experienced it is profoundly simple to identify, understand, appreciate, and YES…participate within its displayed interactions.
In the 11th chapter of the Book of Genesis, it tells the story of the Tower of Babel. The story shares with us that a group of self-serving and self-centered folk decided that God wasn’t as unreachable as everyone had been telling them. So, they decided they were going to show-off their own human ability while trying to supersede the Creator in the life of the culture around them. They began to build a tower that would reach the heavens…where God lived. Once there, they would be equal to God, thereby proving the Divine is no longer needed. God saw what was happening and confused NOT their language…but their “understanding”… so that they could no longer effectively communicate with each other. God then somehow conveyed through our scriptures that God would let humanity know when the time was right to bring the opportunity of transformational “understanding” back into play. (see Joel 2 and Acts 2)
1At first everyone spoke the same language, 2but after some of them moved from the east and settled in Babylonia, 3-4they said: Let’s build a city with a tower that reaches to the sky! We’ll use hard bricks and tar instead of stone and mortar. We’ll become famous, and we won’t be scattered all over the world.
5But when the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower, 6he said: These people are working together because they all speak the same language. This is just the beginning. Soon they will be able to do anything they want. 7Come on! Let’s go down and confuse them by making them speak different languages–then they won’t be able to understand each other.
8-9So the people had to stop building the city, because the LORD confused their language and scattered them all over the earth. That’s how the city of Babel got its name.
Something was going to have to transform within the human condition to allow for this required goal of divinely offered empowerment to be completed. Something practically discernable had to happen that would empower those previously separated to be brought together under the banner of a loving, calling, and transformational God. That’s where Darnell Hamilton is clearly an important cog in the wheel of Divine understanding…the indwelling of the Holy Spirit…and of course, speaking in other tongues.
In my life I have had the privilege to minister to thousands of people. These created souls have come from every walk of life and from every corner of human experience. Even though most have been a joy to serve, some have touched me with such obvious depth that one could hardly deny their special place in the Kingdom of God here on earth. Darnell Hamilton is certainly one of those people.
Darnell is in his twenties. He is African-American. He is gentle and kind. He is full of open and enthusiastic love for all people. He is a person that authentically values his church relationship. Darnell will loudly sing, joyously dance and passionately hug another loving soul with the utmost sincerity. When he sees me coming he will point his finger at me until I return the gesture. Once this non-verbal recognition has been attained he will find something that he can genuinely complement me about. Darnell will find something that I, or the church, have recently accomplished and point it out with gladness. His outward demeanor isn’t fake or contrived. It is fundamentally rock solid.
If that wasn’t enough, Darnell is a beloved member of a rather famous musical family of the same last name and even though he doesn’t stay on pitch very well, he never fails to join in with open and honest support. Darnell will do whatever it takes to uplift those around him concerning their efforts for the Kingdom. He is completely appreciative and welcoming to every day God has given to him. Yes, Darnell Hamilton is some kind of guy. Without a doubt he encompasses every major goal that the Christian faith is striving for and with every day that passes he searches for another opportunity to grow or share the goodness of God with others. I’m telling you, all of us could learn a lot from Darnell Hamilton.
Here’s one more important fact. Darnell is a developmentally challenged person who doesn’t have the physical ability to articulate his words very well. In fact, it is a serious challenge for those who have just met Darnell to “understand” him. Yet, given just a few moments in his presence something remarkable starts to happen. A transformation, which can only be described as Divine, starts to take place. With few exceptions, every person who interacts with this wonderful creation of God is gently challenged to move beyond mere words. They are blessed with the experience to connect with the inner being… the inner Divine of Darnell. After a few interactions with this loving and gentle soul of God’s grace, people start to realize what God has intended all along. They discover that words will always fail. However, the Divine’s foundational characteristic enables anyone and everyone to unify within their connection to God.
God’s grace calls to all of us. The Creator’s Spirit can empower us beyond our own capabilities. As we awaken to the call of God we experience some valuable spiritual lessons. The more sincere a person becomes…the more authentic…the more searching…the more loving…the more giving…the more humble…the more joyous a person travels in their transformation…the more they will be able to meet the same God that Darnell knows. Oh, Yes! All of us could learn a lot about God’s empowerment from Darnell Hamilton. Peace.