Dysfunctional Approach to Spiritual Gifts: Relational

As communicated in a previous post, the Encarta World English Dictionary provides three definitions for the word dysfunctional:

1.  relating badly
2.  not performing as expected
3.  affected by disease or impairment

In this post we will consider the first definition to see how a dysfunctional approach to spiritual gifts ties into interpersonal relationships.

Dysfunction Defined in Regard to Interpersonal Relationships:

Look at the key passages on spiritual gifts you will find reference to love in each one:

We learn much about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.  Sandwiched between those two chapters is an entire chapter about love.  Chapter 14 begins, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”

Ephesians 4:16, dealing with spiritual gifting, notes how the Body “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Immediately following a list of some of the gifts, Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere.”

1 Pet. 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply” and two verse later we read about using our gifts.

A dysfunctional approach to spiritual gifts, then, would be using our gifts devoid of love.

Effects of Dysfunction on Relationships:

The absence of love strips our service of its eternal merit.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

The absence of love removes safeguards in relationships, opening doors to abuses, neglect, apathy, manipulation, betrayal, and other selfish pursuits.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

The absence of love prevents growth in relationships.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph. 4:16)

The absence of love brings imbalance to communication, leading to greater potential for conflict.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15)

Dysfunction Broken:


“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3)

Notice the connection between His power and knowledge of Him.  What truth do we know about God? — God is love.  “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn. 4:16)


“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.   We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn. 4:18-19)

When we understand the grace of God in extending unconditional love to us … the kind He demonstrated “while we were still sinners ” (Rom. 5:8) … we will be more prone to reach out to others in love.


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Gal. 5:22).

The Holy Spirit will build this quality within us as we submit to His control and leading in situations where we find it hard to love those we serve.

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