FLEXIBILTY FOR CHANGE
9 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.20 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.21 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.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all peopleso that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:9-23
So far this week it seems as if we are talking about the ability to step in and overcome the obstacles that the world may put in front of us. I like to use the term flexibility for change. Are we capable of walking into a situation with one mindset and being able to walk out of the situation completely different? Or looking at it in another way, are we able to see the problem that may be in front of us and realize that we have to change our methods to be able to overcome the problem. As we continue to live out our lives, we have to learn how to be flexible for change. Just like trying to make sure that our physical bodies are capable of handling a certain situation, we have to train and prepare our spiritual bodies to be ready to take on challenges in a new way as well. What may have worked the last time, may not work this time. What we fully know to be the perfect solution, may have to be tweaked based on the context or the audience that we are encountering. We must be willing to start teaching ourselves to have a way to think outside the box if we are ever going to have the chance to help lead others to experience the Gospel. We have to let go of our ways and recognize new ways to help others desire to engage with us so that we can tell the story.
For example, I love to do what I call the red lollipop experiment. It is one that I use almost all the time when I am working and equipping students that are preparing to go on a mission trip. The way that the experiment goes is that they have to be able to simply tell someone that has never in their entire life seen, tasted, smelled or has any concept what a red lollipop
is or looks like. They have to be willing to do it without a physical lollipop being there and they have no idea the context they are walking into. For example, students always think that they have the perfect answer... and they do if they were talking to someone who lives in their world and speaks their language. This past week we had the opportunity to allow the lesson to be used again. A very knowledgable student had the perfect answer until he realized that I did not speak English and he could not speak German. Another student had the pictures and everything that she thought she needed to tell me what a red lollipop was until she failed to realize that I was deaf and could not hear what she was saying or knew what I was supposed to do with this picture of something I had no idea of what it was. We have to realize that it may be difficult when we go into the world to tell the Gospel in the way that is so obvious to us. To be flexible to change may mean that we take the example of Christ and integrate into their world and meet their physical needs first before we try to check a box that we met their spiritual needs.
Today we see this flexibility to change being lived out in the life of Paul. As he is writing to the people of Corinth, he is telling us that whatever it takes to share the Gospel he will do. If he is meeting with people who cannot eat meat, he will not eat meat so that he can step into their world and build the trust to teach them about the Gospel. If he is with people who cannot speak his language, Paul was willing to take time to learn their language in order that he could teach them the Gospel. For others that were in need, Paul, like Jesus, tried to help meet their need and step into their world before he began to teach them of the Gospel. What a very valuable lesson for us all to learn. Maybe, just maybe we don't need to try and change others to be so much more like us. Maybe we need to step into their world and understand their struggles and recognize what they deal with first. Maybe we need to spend the time to build the relationships first and then they will allow us to speak and listen with more attentive ears. We have to stop thinking that the rest of the world wants to look and be like us. We are not looking to physically change their lives. We are going as God has commanded us to teach and equip them to have a spiritual transformation. It does no good for us to try and teach our Western culture to those who live in the rainforests of Africa. We are not carrying our life, but the story of Jesus to the world.
So our challenge today is to really think about what it takes for us to be flexible for change. Are we capable of walking into a situation with preconceived notions of the people and the environment and being open enough to listen and possibly walk out with a different
perspective. Please note that many people who are homeless never thought as a child that that is how they would end up in life. Please know that it is the situations of the world that has led them to step into this current setting. Just because they are homeless does not make them any less of a person. BUT it does mean that they need to hear the Gospel just like the richest people in the world. It is not our status in society that will get us into heaven, but the status of our hearts. I hope and pray that we will try and find a way to live life in a more flexible manner. I hope and pray that we begin to allow Jesus to give us the chance to see things in a new way so that we can help others to change the world. It takes us offering ourselves fully to God to help others to experience the love of God. Please take the time today to be a little more flexible for the change that God may need from you to reach the world. It's not going to be easy at first, but I promise you that it will be worth it in the end.