All things to all people
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law…When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23
Paul had an incredibly clear focus for his life. His longing was that everyone should have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to know that Jesus loved them so much that he died for their sins so that they could have eternal life. Nothing in the world was more important to him than this.
Paul spoke of his willingness to be completely flexible in the way that he got alongside other people. He was brought up as a Jew, and so he was easily able to identify with them and to understand the questions that they might have about Christian faith. But he was just as willing to draw alongside people with no faith background and to understand where they were coming from. He was willing to become all things to all people in order to help them to meet Jesus for themselves.
We can probably all identify the people with whom we most easily get on. They probably share a similar background to us and may be of a similar age and share common interests. That’s all well and good, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross only for people like us. We need to reflect on what it would be like for us to get alongside people who are totally different from us.
I visit many churches and am struck by the fact that very often the people who gather are of one type – whether that’s age, educational background, ethnicity or economic status. It’s vital that we keep in mind Paul’s flexibility and the need for us to deliberately reach beyond the people with whom we immediately feel at home. It would be a good exercise for every church to look at the range of people it draws and then compare that to the different people living in the community that it serves.
What might it mean for you to be “all things to all people” (v22, NIVUK)?
Loving God, help me to get alongside people who are very different from me, so that I might help them to meet you. Amen