1 Corinthians 9:22. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
We exist to bring glory to God. Christ in us has restored this glory. But what about others? How do we go about being an agent of God for the restoration of the glory of God within mankind? How do we restore the glory of living a life of freedom and love aimed at worshipping God? Paul had a strategy for living his life for that purpose: become all things to all people. This is a strategy for life that calls for living your life in order to guide others to freedom in Christ. But how is this done? Let me off three thoughts.
When we look at how Paul describes this becoming all things to all people strategy for living we see him describing himself as taking on a position of servanthood.
1 Corinthians 9:19. I have made myself the servant of all.
Paul of course, learned this from Christ himself. Christ became the slave of all humanity. He lowered himself not only to take on humanity, but to take on the sacrificial death of the cross. Christ also taught this to his followers that those who wish to be first must become the slave of all. To become all things to all people must always be motivated from a mindset of servanthood. And one of the greatest ways to serve others is to start by not offending them.
This is the incarnational living that “to live is Christ” empowers. Christ first became all things to all people. He took upon himself all parts of humanity. All its weaknesses. All of its temptations. All of its dependency. However, Christ did not take on humanity’s sinful behavior. So too, Paul’s strategy for living does have clear limits. He doesn’t live like an adulterer to win adulterers. He doesn’t live like idol worshippers to win the idol worshippers. This is, of course, because our Savior did not do this either.
Incarnational living is a life of entering into the lives of others without entering into the sin of others. It is a life of empathy. Feeling what others feel. Carrying burdens alongside them. Understanding their fears, and weaknesses, and their consciences.
1 Corinthians 9:21. 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.
Paul’s strategy for living in verse 22 is obviously preceded by this statement in verse 21. Paul lived out from under the law (of Moses) but he still lived under the law of Christ.
Galatians 5:14. The whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
The law of Christ is the law of love. Love is the end of all things. Love is the fulfillment of all the law. Love still bounds everything we do. Therefore, becoming all things to all people must be bounded by love.
This requires great discernment. When is it loving and when is it just following what other people are doing? And when is it even harmful to the other person, or yourself?
Do you learn a foreign language in order to love others? Do you let your children join the community little league team in order to love others? Do you talk about current events or politics in order to love others? Do you go over to the homes of your neighbor’s and eat what they eat in order to love others? Do you dress so as to not be a distraction in the culture in which you live order to love others? The answer to these questions is most likely yes.
But in the process we must continually guard our hearts with the gospel. We must guard our hearts with holiness. We must discern if our becoming all things is about getting what I want, or appeasing people. Or is it really about removing all offenses except the gospel itself from our relationships.
“To live is Christ” frees us from having to live a life of separation from the world, and it frees us from having to live exactly like the world. It frees us to love others, loving them within their cultural context and loving them into a life of holiness.
Have you adopted the becoming all things to all people strategy for life? Are you understanding and flexible enough to be able to share the gospel in whatever culture you are in? How does union with Christ allow us to embrace servanthood, incarnation, and love? Do you see these truths growing in your own life?