One of the main forms of picture language for the Holy Spirit is wind or breath. The breath of God, blowing upon us. The sound of a mighty wind.
It’s a good metaphor. Like the wind, the Spirit Himself is invisible. You can’t see air, whether it’s still or on the move, but you can see and feel its effects. We can watch clouds go scudding across the sky. A summer breeze refreshes us in the baking heat, even if it’s warm enough to feel like a hair dryer. We can see it turn the blades of a windmill to generate electricity, we can see its power unleashed in tornado and hurricane.
I’ve seen steel beams a foot across twisted like straws by a tornado. We’ve all seen footage of the devastation of hurricanes – winds so powerful we give them names in order to bring them down to size a bit.
All this from air on the move.
Can the Holy Spirit be that destructive?
We don’t like to picture Him that way. Gentle breeze blowing refreshment to our souls is more our speed, and so He is. He’s good, and He’s for us, has our best interests at heart. And through His omniscience He knows far better than we what our real best interests are.
He has another side, though. He will not tolerate sin, will not play nicely with the black heart of our self-worship. Unleashed, He will be as destructive to our fallen old nature as a tornado.
We don’t like to think of the Holy Spirit as a destroyer, even a destroyer of evil, but He is. God is so committed to the destruction of sin that He was prepared to die in the Person of His Son in order to put an end to it. The Holy Spirit is just as committed to our sanctification.
We often want to pussyfoot around our sin. Gain forgiveness from it, but continue to live our lives like we’re still pagans. Lock it away. Try to tame it; attempt to shackle the black beast. Our religious shackles of behaviour modification, doing what we’re told, obedience to the rules are weak, though, and sooner or later the beast will get free.
The job of the Holy Spirit is not to shackle the beast but to kill it. Our job is to let Him.
As much darkness as I know resides in my unregenerate nature, and yeah, it does take something as destructive as a tornado.
Tornadoes are weird things. They don’t appear to obey rules, and often seem to have minds of their own. They’ll tear the entire roof off a house, yet leave a sheet of paper on the table right where it was. They’ll drive straws through bricks, yet plant a couch with all its cushions delicately by the side of the road a mile away.
The “doesn’t obey rules” and “has a mind of its own” nature of tornadoes is actually a pretty good metaphor for the Spirit, too. One thing I’ve learned is that God will not be boxed. It’s not wise to try to tell the Almighty that He can’t do thus-and-so. Give a woman the gift of pastoral leadership. Heal someone miraculously today. Pick your theological box. In my experience, He tends to like breaking our human boxes; He’s bigger. He will not be contained.
He doesn’t obey our man-made rules. Jesus trampled all over the Pharisees’ rules: healing people on the Sabbath, touching lepers, eating with “sinners”. Yet He was righteous – not the righteousness of keeping all the silly rules we make up, but the righteousness of being completely in tune with God the Father.
The Holy Spirit is His Spirit. It stands to reason that they will be alike.