Like I have written before, it’s tough mining new things as I pass through the Epistles – there are so many favorite passages that I find myself drawn to, that I want to dwell on.
And I read another today. I just love what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:
I have become all things to all men that by all means I might win the more.
(My paraphrase loosely based on NASB and KJV and a concatenation of verses 19 and 22! Anyone know which version uses the phrasing “the more?” I can’t find it, so guess I made it up…)
I know that the press highlights Christian activity that is “newsworthy,” which means really good or really bad. And when I read or listen to the news, I am apt to think the American church is doing a HORRIBLE job of being “all things to all men,” more like “all things to turn off all men” from Jesus.
I know that’s not possibly true of all believers, but it’s quite discouraging to realize how most unbelievers in America (in the world?) view Christianity. Tough to win “the more” under such conditions.
Tim Keller once said in a sermon something like “The Cross is a ‘stumbling block’ to the Jews and ‘foolishness’ to the Gentiles. But we can’t blame the Cross for our own obnoxious behavior.” Sometimes we just turn off nonbelievers – and use the “stumbling block” phrase to explain their lack of interest.
So, how do we become “all things to all men?”
I think there’s a way in which we deliver the Gospel in words and with metaphors that our audience will understand, like Paul did in Athens (read Acts 17 and see what you think of that version of the Gospel!). I discovered quickly when I was in Russia that my friends “got” the gospel when I prefaced it with a description of the Old Testament sacrificial system and how Jesus was the ultimate and final sacrifice for us.
Who knew that would work for Russians?
But, often, we first have to be “all things” in a way that causes people to wonder why we’re different, to ask about the “hope that is within us.” (1 Peter 3:15)
I think there are a lot of things that might make people wonder why we are different (and, boy, I often wonder if others see ANYTHING different in me…sigh). I think caring concern and authenticity draw people to Christians (unfortunately, we often lack on both counts).
But ultimately, I think our relationship with Jesus should lead to a peace, a resting, a satisfaction – deep in our souls. People will be drawn to us because we no longer strive, no longer compare, no longer need approval or accomplishment. We feel easy and safe.
And this happens as our relationship with Jesus deepens, as we cease to look for love in all the wrong places – because we have found it in His arms – and on the Cross.
We can truly be “all things to all men” when Jesus is all things to us.
Oh, Jesus: Do whatever it takes (did I really say that?) for you to be all things to me. Amen.
Today’s Readings: Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12, Psalm 102:18-28, Proverbs 24:5-6, 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).