Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
1 Corinthians 9:19-20
It all springs from having a servant’s attitude. The Word of God is clear that we’re to walk in freedom. But it’s how we handle that freedom that makes all the difference.
Paul chose to be a servant of the Gospel to everyone he meets. In that way, he hopes to bring the message of salvation to those who are ready to accept it. It’s a very hard road to walk.
Look at how the apostle describes it.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
1 Corinthians 9:20
He starts by talking about his relationship to the religious folk. These are the people who believe that God will only bless you if you maintain strict adherence to a code of conduct.
Paul admits that these religious rules and regulations have no power to bring you closer to God. But in order to open up communication with this group, he must honor their customs while he’s with them.
I’ve seen those who have destroyed their witness because they’ve ridiculed the beliefs of others. You may not agree with them, but everyone should be treated respectfully.
There’s another group that Paul reached that we have problems with.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1 Corinthians 9:21
I believe that the word Paul used to describe this group is closer to our word, outlaw. He tells us that to the outlaws he became like an outlaw in order to win them to Christ. All the while he knew that he mustn’t break God’s law in Christ.
This is a tough group to reach. I’m thinking bikers, gang members, and street people. We’re not going to reach them dressed like we’re going to church.
I had a friend that I would see once in a while when I took the subway into Boston. His hair was matted and uncombed. His beard was long and straggly. His clothes looked like they had been slept in for weeks. He looked homeless. Of course, the reason was that he had a ministry to the homeless in Boston.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23
I think sometimes that we’re just too stubborn to try identifying with those around us. We want everyone to see how spiritually strong we are. I’m glad that Christ identified with us in our weakness.
If we truly want to be a participant in the work of the Gospel, then we need to get uncomfortable sometimes. We need to forget who we are and see the need in those around us. Only then will we see the power of God at work bringing people to Christ.
Question: How do you identify with those who are not like you?
© 2019 Nick Zaccardi