“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” - 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul had a goal in life: to serve God and lead others to faith. He never watered down the Gospel, nor preached a “cheap” salvation. He never advocated compromise. But, he was committed to removing cultural and social barriers that might get in the way of the truth.
In my life, the first real example I witnessed of this attitude was through the early Jesus movement, when a few church leaders, like Pastor Chuck Smith, rose above their personal tastes and prejudices, and accepted the long haired hippie types and the music that came with them into their churches.
Chuck admits that he wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect, but his wife, with a heart of deep compassion for these lost kids, convinced him to open his heart and his church.
A young woman in our church set out on her first cross cultural mission trip this summer. She later said one of the greatest lessons she learned was the importance of adapting her dress style (from southern California beach to a more modest, conservative style) and food tastes to accommodate her hosts.
She said she ate more strange things in a few weeks than she had eaten in her whole life--but she also learned the value of respecting the culture in which she was ministering, and how much more receptive people are to your message when you do so.
All around us, every day, we can find opportunities to “die to ourselves” and adapt to the will of God as we learn to respect and love other people in their own cultures and worlds.
Sometimes it means stepping out of our comfort zones.
More often, it means not passing judgment on personal tastes in music, worship styles, dietary preferences, dress, hair-styles and a host of other “non-issues” unless they seriously cross the moral guidance of Scripture.
It mostly means totally abandoning ourselves to God’s will, with a goal to live out His great commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 22: 37-40). And, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."(Matthew 28:19-20).
[Photo: Matt Gruber, CreationSwap]