“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 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. 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. 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. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
1 Cor 9:19-23
Pauline Political Correctness
Paul’s method of ministry is something that I hope to learn from. This passage above is commonly used as an rationale for Incarnational Ministry. That is ministry where one adopts the forms of a culture in order to reduce offense, I guess you could call it the “politically correct” method Pauline ministry. Paul here first of all designates that because he is free in Christ, he is no longer bound by sociological labels, he is “free from all”. What a relieving thing that the Gospel does for us? Our world has it to where those within one group are by definition of their sociological label intended to be in animosity toward another group with an opposite sociological label (i.e. band geeks vs. jocks).
Worldly Wise Jr. High/High School Pettiness
However, the Gospel frees us from those labels, and like the resurrected Jesus who was able to walk into locked rooms, we have the ability to adapt to various groups that we were previously locked out of. Paul didn’t do this for the purpose of being accepted and loved on by others, which is a common reason for many to adapt to various groups. Contemporarily of course I am talking about the juvenile activities of jr. high and high school, where you were figuring out what cloths you should wear and activities you had to be apart of in order to gain acceptance from others. Paul here says that within Christ you are free from it. He then goes on to add, that now he does his action of adapting to different crowds for a unique purpose, that he might be a servant to all, to win others.
Paul becomes like the Jews in order to lovingly serve Jews. To those under the law to loving serve those under the law. To those outside of the law to lovingly serve those outside of the law, and to the weak in order to love the weak. It is fortunate that Scriptural record gives us insight into which groups Paul is talking about. You can almost imagine that high school cafeteria now with these various groups represented. Within Acts 11:19 we find servants of Jesus loving on Jews, Acts 11:20 displays servants of Jesus loving on the Hellenist/Greeks (those outside of the law), Acts 21:20 we find a group of Jewish-Christians who live zealously “under the law” and within Romans 14:2-3 we find another group who are “weak”. Paul says here that because of His freedom in Christ, he is now able to serve among these various groups in order that he might win the more and he does it for the sake of the gospel [of reconciliation]. The gospel is one that seeks to reconcile people to God and people to each other. The New Heavens and New Earth will be like a totally transformed high school cafeteria where there will still exist the various groups, but the unique thing is they are all freed in Christ to move in and out of each of the groups as servants to each other and most of all of God.
Identifying With The “Enemy”
When reflecting upon the contemporary example, you could identify Jews as being those from your own Christian denomination and theological persuasion (i.e. fundamentalist/liberal), those “outside of the law” as those who are completely lost (i.e. atheist, muslim, hindu, buddhist, etc), those “under the law” can be those outside of your Christian denomination or theological persuasion (i.e. fundamentalist/liberal) and the “weak” who are the Christians that you relate with that are still growing in their maturity within Christ.
I Can Only Imagine…
Can you imagine that? A Fundamentalist Christian purposefully adapting to the culture and forms of the Liberal Christian in order to lovingly serve them? What about a Liberal Christian purposefully adapting to the culture and forms of the Fundamentalist Christian in order to lovingly serve them? Even a Creationist adapting to the forms and customs of a Darwinian-Evolutionist in order to lovingly serve them? Oh! What about a Wealthy American Christian adapting to the forms and customs of the Impoverished Immigrant (legal or illegal) in order to lovingly serve them?
If God Reigned Supreme…?
I have heard this question posed before: “If God was perfectly reigning supreme within the world right now, what would be different? I have an idea that what I am suggesting above, would be the epitome of that very reality. Sounds a bit like the answer to the prayer “your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.”