“I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the Law I became like one under the Law, so as to win those under the Law. To those not having the Law I became like one not having the Law, so as to win those not having the Law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel.” ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Do you really own the Good News of the salvation we have from God in Christ? I mean, do you really have it inside you? Do you understand that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace? Do you comprehend that your salvation is based on Jesus’ righteousness, not yours? Do you get that it’s founded on God’s holiness, not mine? Have you grasped that eternal life is an undeserved, unmerited, by-God gift?
Because, when you do, it changes everything. It rocks your priorities.
Suddenly, church traditions take a back seat to grace. My feelings and preferences defer to the needs of the lost. My idea of justice is not as important as forgiveness. Rules and regulations take their place behind mercy and patience. And love for God and love for neighbor far surpasses all of it!
“I have become all things to all people.”
Depending on circumstances and who was involved and what the issues were, the apostle Paul could come across as really inconsistent. And he was fine with that. Whatever it takes to save people! In one case, Paul insists that Timothy be circumcised and in another case he demands that Titus not be circumcised. Do you have questions and doubts about that? What about Timothy!?!
Paul would do almost anything. He would change his mind, he would adjust his methods, he’d relax his rules and confront the traditions. He’d do anything to make sure people could hear the Good News about Jesus.
Paul was not a chameleon because he had no conviction; he had a conviction about the Gospel that allowed him to be a chameleon. He would do anything to win people to Christ.
We’re going to get criticized no matter what we do. Our Lord Jesus didn’t do anything non-controversial. The people he touched, the places he went — there were always people talking and griping, somebody always got offended, somebody always fussed.
Jesus starts a spiritual conversation with a Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink and she says, “You’re not even supposed to be talking to me.” Peter knocks on Cornelius’ door and, when the Gentile soldier answers, Peter tells him, “You know, it’s against the law for me to even be here.”
If we’re going to get criticized anyway, let’s get criticized for doing the things Jesus did. Let’s love people. Let’s accept people. Let’s show mercy and grace to all people.
I think Billy Graham said something like: “It is God’s job to judge, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, it’s our job to love and accept.” But sometimes I think we want to do God’s job. We’re trying to do what only God does.
You and I are not the ones who decide who gets to go to heaven. But sometimes we act like we’re the bouncers at the pearly gates. It’s like we’re standing behind some velvet church rope and checking IDs, letting some people in and kicking others out. We’re not bouncers! We’re ushers! Our God is inviting everybody to his table and we’re ushers, not bouncers. We’re grabbing people by the arm and showing them to their seats that somebody else paid for.
Our God loves everyone. Our Father always has and always will love every single man, woman, and child on this planet without exception. And he wants all people to be saved. He doesn’t want anybody left out. That’s why Jesus came, to seek and save the lost. He came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life so you can have his righteousness, his holiness, and his peace.
Allan Stanglin is the Senior Minister for Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, www.amarillocentral.org. He posts almost daily at www.allanstanglin.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org