1 Corinthians 9:19-23. 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
The Corinthians Christians had the same problem that most of us have today- we want power. We want to have things our way, control others, and be considered more spiritual than everyone else. We want freedom, but not the freedom that Christ offers, the freedom to self-promote and self-advance. This is of course not the freedom of Christ in you.
If you think you don’t have these problems, think again.
Paul has been trying to show the church that because they are in Christ and Christ is in them, they do not have to grasp for power anymore. In chapter 9 he will use himself as the example. Much of the chapter is Paul demonstrating that he decided to forego his rights as an apostle (the right to be paid) in order to love the people of Corinth and win them to Christ (read 1 Corinthians 9:1-18). This connects to chapter 8 as Paul is using himself as an example of the “strong” Christian putting his rights aside to help the “weak” Christian.
As you look at the verses above from 1 Corinthians 9, you can see that it is all about how we relate to those who are different from us. Those who are “outsiders.” There is no belittling of those who are different. No despising. No racism. No cultural elitism. No snobbery. He chooses to enter into their journey with them, wherever they may be. How is this possible?
When Christ become your new identity no other identity controls you. You are truly free to love. Paul says:
I can live like a slave because slave is not my true identity. Christ is.
I can live like the free because free is not my true identity. Christ is.
I can live under the law because free from the law is not my true identity. Christ is.
I can live free from the law because the law is not my true identity. Christ is.
I can live like a Gentile because Gentile is not my true identity. Christ is.
I can live like a Jew because Jew is not my true identity. Christ is. (Think about how amazing this statement would have been from Paul, a Jew- To the Jews I became as a Jew.)
I can even live like the weak of conscience because my “strong” conscience is also bounded by love.
This is “to live is Christ.” This is the nature of the gospel. That we live in love for those who are different from us in order to reveal Christ to them. This is what Christian freedom truly is. Freedom to live like a Jew or a Gentile. Freedom to live like a free man or a slave. Freedom to live under the law or out from under the law. This is a freedom empowered by eternity. I can lose my comfort, power, and status now in order to share in the blessing of the gospel (v.23) with you forever in eternity.
Are you willing to relate to all kinds of other people to journey with them towards Christ? Are you willing to use your freedom as an opportunity to sacrifice for outsiders? How does Paul’s teaching relate to the incarnation of Christ? Do you see yourself as the incarnation of Christ on earth today? How might your life change if you saw yourself as his body on earth today?