Back To All Devotional

‘A hundred love languages’ – Tim Spargo-Mabbs

Love can cause us to do pretty radical things. But not many of us will have been driven so far as to learn a new language! However, that’s exactly what happened to my friend Andrew when he fell in love with a Spanish girl, now his wife. Something similar happened when the disciples first gathered to celebrate Pentecost.

For many traditional churchgoers, Pentecost is a bit of a mystery – what was going on for them that first time?

Initially, Pentecost celebrated the beginning of wheat harvest. Later, it marked the giving of the Law at Sinai fifty days after the first Passover (Exodus 19). The standard commentaries will tell you how Jesus fulfilled and transcended these stories. They will also tell you how God symbolically reversed the curse resulting from the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1–9) – where sundered speech became language now universally understood.

All of that is good and true, but it doesn’t quite explain the central elements of the experience. What was this wind from heaven and these tongues of fire (v.2-3)? I’d like to suggest an interpretation that can be missed when reading Luke’s account, which I find transformative. And it all starts in the Temple.

1 Kings 8:11 describes God’s shekinah glory coming to dwell in the Temple. It seems to have stayed there, albeit not so obviously, throughout Israel’s divided monarchy. Then the prophet Ezekiel seems to prophesy its departure in Ezekiel 10 because of the people’s apostasy. Later, in chapter 43, he seems to be prophesying that it would return when the covenant was renewed. And when it did, rivers of living water would flow from the Temple to heal the surrounding nations (chapter 47).

I think this is the event Luke is trying to describe, without realising its full significance. Here the wind and the fire, archetypal symbols of the presence of God, are returning to take up residence in the new Temple; not a building this time but a community of believers! The whole Bible narrative is a quest to discover how God can come and dwell with people here and now.

Let’s stop and take this in for a moment. If what I am saying is even close to being on track, we have become the very place where God dwells with His people. Paul admonishes his Corinthian correspondents… “don’t you know that your body is a temple for the Holy Spirit who lives inside you…?”

Think of the crowd during that time. The known world was represented in Jerusalem and everybody heard the apostles speaking in their own language.

God has given us at PF the message of hope and reconciliation for everyone in prison. A new language, one of love, one of hope and one of restoration. As we reflect on Pentecost, what might it take us for the people we meet or interact with to say, “I heard God’s message of hope in my own tongue, in a way that I understood?”

Tim Spargo-Mabbs is the Programmes Coordinator at Prison Fellowship and shares his story as a victim of crime on Sycamore Tree.

Download the June Prayer Diary, with a prompt each day for how we can pray for our prisons and our ministries.

Did you know you can receive the monthly devotional and Prayer Diary by email? Use this link to sign up.

“I can honestly say that I never had as much satisfaction when I worked as I do now as a volunteer.” — Arthur, Chaplaincy Support volunteer

Volunteer with PF

Volunteers are the life-blood of our organisation, and what they do in the lives of those in prison and as they pray, is incredibly valuable. If you are looking to use your time to support some of the most marginalised people in our society to transform their lives, then volunteering could be for you.

Find out more