Food For Thought… This verse has been used by Christians to justify all sorts of questionable behavior. Some have resorted to drinking and frequenting bars in order to be a “witness” there. Others have taken up the dance club life in order to bring a Gospel presence in those places. In yet a more trendy example, churches have gone ultra casual in their worship experience—pastors wearing shorts instead of suits, ushers in Hawaiian shirts, singers in flip flops—in order to be more relevant to the culture they are trying to reach. They have “become all things to all people that they might save some.”
Technically, there is nothing wrong with that—so long as the motive is pure. However, I have a feeling in some cases, perhaps most cases, the motive has not been to proclaim the Gospel but rather to indulge in those behaviors for purely selfish reasons. The reasons are very spiritual sounding, but in reality, that person simply wanted to drink alcohol, or find a potential romantic interest, or wear ripped out jeans in church because they thought it was cool.
If we are going to use that verse to explain our approach to faith—that we have become all things to all people—then it had better be for the purpose of entering the world of the lost with the strategic and expected outcome of pulling them out of that world and into the new and different world of the Kingdom of God. That is incarnational evangelism. That is exactly what Jesus did when he came to earth, born as a baby in a stinky stable in Bethlehem. He entered our world to pull us out of it and into God’s world.
If that is truly our mission, then our behavior will be fundamentally modified as we enter the world of the spiritual seeker. A Christian woman will not become a barfly. A believing man will not go trolling for babes in a nightclub. A preacher will dress modestly and respectfully.
The translation given to this verse in the Message version of the Bible helps to shed light on what Paul was saying:
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (I Corinthians 9:19-23)
That is a pretty powerful motive for winning the lost—and a sure-fire way to become more effective in your witness for Christ. Follow those guidelines, and you will always be contemporary without compromise.
Give that some thought!
Prayer… Lord, show me how to be current without compromise in my witness to a lost world of your saving grace.
One More Thing… “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign in sabotage.” —C.S. Lewis