WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE?
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19, 23
What a real question for us to answer. In the midst of all of the chaos and WE the people once again trying to figure out exactly who WE the people represents, I think that it is a timely message to remember Paul's lesson on our true calling. I know that even in Paul's time this lesson was difficult to follow. I know that even more so, today this lesson is difficult to swallow and for some of us we may struggle to even think about where we should begin, and that is exactly where we should be on the subject. It should be difficult, but we should be willing to stop and think through the scenario. We should be willing to take a moment and really think through not only who our neighbor is, but how much more are we willing to step into their lives and be a good representation of the Gospel in their lives. How much are we willing to put aside things that may cause our neighbor to stumble in a way that will allow us to have an open and honest conversation about God. See that was the beauty of Jesus. When he decided to step into someone else's life, he did not come with expectations of what they were going to have to do to have an audience with him, but instead he was willing to forgo the traditions and the customs of the day to have an honest and open conversation so that they would feel comfortable to really take time to listen to him because they felt he really cared about them first.
See the first thing that we have to realize, and I know that we have said this many times before, but this life is not about us. The time that we have has been designated by God to spend understanding life the best we can but our higher calling is to do all that we can to reach as many people as we can for God. Coming into the Methodist denomination, I was amazed by the first quote I read from John Wesley. He said, "Do all the good you can, by all
the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." I mean that is basically Paul's teaching rewritten in a different way. That we must recognize that each person is of sacred value and that we have been called to carry the Gospel and to be a representation of the Gospel to every person that we meet. It is not an option. We have been called to have the conversations and to be a living example for Christ. And the cool thing is that we can do that in so many different ways than just words.
See we must be willing to put our agendas and our goals aside and truly listen to what God has called us to do. It may mean that we do have to have the tough conversations with the people that we don't want to ever talk to, or it may mean that we provide a service that no one will never know about at all. It may mean that we are in the forefront or that we are in the background. It may mean that we are to give up everything and go to where Jesus has called us for a time that God determines, or it may mean that we sit behind our computer and spend time helping to rescue those that are truly struggling millions of miles away through email or online witnessing. We must recognize that everyone in this world is going to be offended by something and that it is not going to be easy to reach everyone, but it does not mean that we cannot start out with reaching just one and see where God leads us next. In the midst of the world's identity crisis, I need us all to realize that God never had that problem and the reason was because God saw everyone the same.
As we look at the scripture for today, I need you to note that I only included the bookend scriptures. I did that for a reason. The bookends really tell the foundational part of the story. The inside verses give us the way that Paul intended to accomplish this call that God had given for his life, but the real foundational principles were written in the bookends. Look at the two verses again: "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." Here we see that yes we do have the freedom and the choice to do anything that we really want to do for the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of our lives, but that there is a choice that we must make to put down our lives for the sake of others. We must make a choice that we are willing to look beyond what we see and realize that we
have an important message to carry to the world. But we have to look past the idiocy of this world, and yes I think that every one of us have made idiotic decisions from time to time. But we must be willing to change our perspective and lay down ourselves for the sake of others. Remember when we read Paul's letter to the Philippians and it said that we are to make God's JOY complete. Well that means that we are to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. JOY stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself and that is the direction when we are ready that our focus should be in our daily faith journey. We should be looking to Jesus to help Others and think of Yourself last. It is not going to be easy, and to be honest without God it will be literally impossible, but if you are willing to get Yourself right with God, it will lead you to an attitude to seek out Others to lead and tell about Jesus. That is what it looks like to be all things to all people. It looks like compete humility that ends in complete JOY in Christ.