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 Corinthians 9:19-23 (emphasis my own)
In 1 Cor. 9, Paul tells the church that he is bound only to God, that Paul is releasing his rights. He then goes on to tell the church that while he is free he subjects himself to the requirements of sharing the Gospel. It is in the sharing of the Gospel that Paul find reward, not in financial security or his own desires. Although Paul does tell the church in v. 14 that is only right that one should be supported financially by the proclamation of the Gospel, but that is for another time I think.
Paul’s desire to share the Gospel is universal. Repeatedly Paul uses the term “all.” He is not beholden to anyone save God, but he voluntarily subjects himself to the strictures of communities for the sake of the Gospel. He becomes a part of the community to which he is speaking. He gets inside a people group and understands them and is then understood in turn.
What does this mean for us? I was once taught a maxim, “all means all, that is all; all means.” Paul tells us to “be all to all, so some will believe.” Paul’s statement about the Law is telling, his understanding was binary. You were either a person under the Law (Jew), or a person not under the Law (Gentile). It is an enormous leap of love and commitment to make the statement in 1 Cor. 9 for Paul, and honestly a great exemplar for us. Christ told us that Love is the greatest commandment, and it seems we miss this mark often.
It is easy to say we love another, that we are unconditionally committed to them, it it quite difficult to actually demonstrate that love without condition. We, the Church, looks as sinners with disdain. They are the unforgiven, and we pay them at best lip service. Jesus would have been there with them, showing them His love. Yet, we don’t do this. Instead we tell each other what good believers we are, we turn Church into a social club that is locked from the inside.
I propose that to follow Paul and Jesus we need to heal from the inside out and open the doors of the Church both physically and personally to the lost. We need to welcome the lost into our midst, but more importantly we need to go into theirs and be a light.
Be All, to All, so that Some will come to believe.
Until next time…Fight the Good Fight…Fairly