Read This Week: 1 Corinthians 9
I have become all things to all people 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 9:22-23 NIV
Prejudice is a prison. It oppresses the heart and mind and keeps one from relating to and loving all people. It enslaves one to a baseless and negative attitude toward others. The emotional confinement of prejudice is damaging to all levels of relationships and has a lasting adverse effect on communities. Most importantly, it is a direct affront to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the inherent love of God for all human beings.
A person of prejudice operates under the delusion that they are exercising their freedom of thought and feeling, but they are actually binding themselves from the beauty of the human experience. They are restricting their full potential in the world and any chance of bringing glory to God.
The Apostle Paul had a deep understanding of freedom in Christ and its power to overcome prejudice. He was a Jew who had an intense passion for his people, but he had a special calling on his life to minister to and share the gospel with the Gentiles. These two people groups had a long history of animosity and racism toward one another. Yet, Paul did not allow this to keep him from serving and doing life with both. He writes about his freedom to serve beyond his cultural and natural prejudices in verse 22 where he says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
This statement by Paul does not mean that he was inauthentic. He didn’t change who he was to fit his audience or please those he was around. He loved all people and understood the freedom God gave him to adapt his approach to different groups while overcoming cultural bias. How he interacted with and acclimated to various cultures never involved changing his spiritual identity or his message.
Paul’s ultimate purpose was for people to be saved and changed by Jesus Christ. No one’s race, background, or creed was going to stop him from sharing about Jesus even if his methods varied in how he shared. He wrote in verse 23, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” The freedom in his approach never altered the true gospel and the life-changing blessings it held for all people.
To become all things to all people is not an excuse to compromise our faith or standards. Compromise is the inability to know what one believes. Prejudice is the inability to bend to another. The freedom and wisdom that comes from Christ in 1 Corinthians 9, gives us the ability to take a stand while bending to the needs of others.
May we take this teaching and example seriously and apply it to our lives. May the love of God invade our hearts and empower us to serve others no matter how different or foreign we perceive them to be. May we be consistent in our message while accommodating others in our behavior. May we take risks and move out of our cultural comfort zones so that one person may know and experience the love of Jesus for all of eternity.