10.04.2005

Being All Things to All People

At first glance, you might think it's impossible to be all things to all people. You might look at the title of this and think, "How can she expect me to be everything to everyone?" It might seem that you would be pulled apart, with nothing left of yourself to give. Isn't there a saying that says, "You can't please all of the people all of the time?"

It certainly does sound like a lot of work, and it sounds like it might even be confusing. But the apostle Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-24:

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. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Here it is in "The Message:"

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! You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win.

What an important message! And it can be applied to the way we reach out to women who are considering abortion. Let's look at the broader lesson first.

First, we need to understand that we live with absolutes. There is a right, and there is a wrong. (I know that many of you don't believe that, but many do.) For instance, as Christians, we are taught that sex is only to occur between husband and wife. Period. No homosexual sex. No premarital sex. We're also taught that we cannot worship idols. Period. No kneeling down and praying to anyone else besides God. No elevating our prosperity above our faith in God. These are commands that God has given us for proper living, so that things may go well for us.

At the same time, we are allowed to have some freedom within these absolutes. (This is not to be confused with the free will that allows us to break even the absolutes.) The Bible does not instruct us on what to do in every situation that confronts us, although that sure would be nice at times! So when we are faced with a situation that there is no absolute for, we need to apply God's word, pray, and act in freedom. For instance, while we are not to "get drunk on wine," we have the freedom to drink alcohol. Some of us can choose to do that, while others will choose not to. Neither is wrong in this case.

In Paul's day, there was a bitter argument regarding whether or not it was right for Christians to eat the meat that was sacrificed to idols. While they could not worship the idols, Paul taught that they were free to eat the meat if they did not feel convicted to do otherwise and as long as doing so would not create a problem with others, especially the newer brothers and sisters. This means that we cannot just do whatever pleases us - as Christians, we need to always be looking out for the betterment of others. Paul discusses this in 1 Corinthians 8 and the first part of 1 Corinthians 9, and then he moves into the aforementioned verses. In these verses, Paul suggests that we make adjustments....that we adapt to circumstances.

How do we handle this freedom then? Paul does not mean that we can make adjustments to the moral absolutes. He clearly takes note of this by reminding us that he is not under the law or without the law. Compromise on these issues would not only be disrespecting God, but it would also be disrespectful to others, because it would teach them the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing according to God. Rather than making adjustments to the absolutes, Paul is suggesting that we make adjustments based on the culture and attitudes of the people we are with. We need to assimilate into secular culture as much as possible without jeopardizing our moral abolutes in order to reach the most people.

How come this is so important? After all, it's easier to do what feels natural and right to me as a Christian. Why would I want to step out of my comfort zone? Cultural issues are often very important to women and men who do not know Jesus. It's often all they have! From the places they go to the things they value, they often make their own moral compass, and this compass can change from time to time. Those who are without God are going to be able to hear your message of His love if you are able to relate to them somehow.

Think of a typical CEO trying to tell a criminal about God's love. How about vice versa? There would be a barrier there, wouldn't there? If the cultures are the same, chances are that the message will not be rejected just because of the messenger. Taking away the "noise" of various differences makes the message easily heard and understood. It keeps Christianity from becoming something that only Christians understand and opens it up to the rest of the world (which is what God wants.)

How does this apply to pregnancy outreach? Our culture tells people to look out for #1. It's a "me first" society. You're going to be dealing with a culture of selfishness. I believe that Paul's admonishment to act selflessly by becoming like "those not having the law" applies to us. He makes the point that he does not take on their way of life. He knows he belongs to Christ, and he acts accordingly. At the same time, he realizes that the people he works with do not have the law. (He didn't tell non-Christians that they could not eat meat that was sacrificed to idols, for instance.) He doesn't expect them to act the way that he does, and the way he befriends them is to think along the same lines that his society thought while still remaining true to Christ.

By thinking along the same lines as our me-first society, we'll be in a better place to approach women who are considering abortion. By not holding them up to our "law," we'll be able to approach them in a nonjudgmental way. I think if Paul were alive today, he would approach women not as a Christian and not as a pro-lifer. I think he would put himself into our society instead of standing outside of it, try to see things from the woman's point of view, and make his case against her abortion in that way.

Everyone runs. As pro-lifers, we're in a race to save the lives of the unborn and to help women to heal and be healthy. Run to win.

1 comment:

kurt oberlin said...

Great insight into the text. I just happened to google some results for this page and came across your blog. Keep up the good insight and thanks for the help you offered to my sermon this Sunday!!!!