Provocative Bible Verses: All Things to All People

Posted: October 22, 2009 in evangelism
Tags: , , , ,

As the saying goes, you can’t be all things to all people. That bit of cultural wisdom is geared towards helping us cope with the many demands people place on us to try and meet their expectations and standards. It is intended to give us the freedom to be ourselves and not compromise for the sake of others. Certainly one would expect that in Christian circles the idea of compromising is not highly valued. Truth is after all not something to be easily set aside for convenience sake or to fit in with popular opinion.

If this high value of truth and the resistance to compromise is truly a biblical Christian virtue, then how in the world does the Apostle Paul say that not only can we be all things to all people, but that he himself strives with great effort to be all things to all people. He says it this way:

“I have become all things to all men” 1 Corinthians 9:22

That just flies in the face of what most people would consider to be the way Christians should live. Think about it. How many times have you heard preachers bemoaning that fact the people are compromising with the culture and this is the downfall of humanity? In the extreme you get Christians living in their own little enclaves of only people who are very much like them and very unlike the rest of the world. The Amish come to mind, but so do certain fundamentalist varieties of the faith.

What is important to understand is that your motivation can make all the difference in the world. If you are compromising in order to avoid conflict or difficulty, or to be accepted so you don’t have to make a stand, then you are heading down a dangerous path. But when we look at Paul’s words in context we see that his motivation needs to be our motivation as well. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23

Paul is saying that when it comes to being able to help others know and follow Jesus, then we must be ready and able to fit in with them in their culture. In this chapter he says that to the Jews he lived like a Jew, to the Greeks, he became like a Greek. Whatever the culture was in which he found himself, he did all he could to fit into that culture for the high purpose of demonstrating to people what Jesus is all about. In that way he did exactly what Jesus did. Jesus became like us in order to win us to himself. Our whole theology of the incarnation, of God becoming man in Christ, is about compromising for the sake of the Gospel. We need to cross the cultural gap between Christians and non-Christians in order to help them see Jesus.

That means that followers of Jesus need to being willing to eat, dress, talk, play, and generally do the things that others do, as long as we are not sinning. We do this in order to be Jesus in their midst. On a simple level it may mean something as mundane as learning to bowl and joining a bowling league in order to meet people who don’t know Jesus. Just make sure it is not a church based league filled only with other church people. For twenty years I volunteered as a high school football coach at two different public schools. I went to practice, games, and out to eat after games with the guys I coached with. It was clear that I was a Christian, but it was also clear that I enjoyed their company and was willing to be one of them as much as possible. I accepted them and honored them as people even though we might have very different views of Jesus. As a result of that ministry I have done weddings, funerals, marital counseling sessions, visited hospitals, prayed with numerous people, shared the Gospel many times to entire teams, and been blessed to help some people come to faith in Christ. It could only have happened by being willing to become “all things to all men in order to win some to Christ”.

I wonder, in what way do you need to become like the people around you in order to let them see, up close and personal, what a follower of Jesus is like? What do you need to do in order to be close enough to people for them to experience the love of Jesus through you? If you really want others to come to know and love him, you will find a way to become all things to all people.

Comments
  1. Michele DeFazio says:

    Dan,
    Keep writing…..i look forward to reading. Thanks for keeping it simple! How is Simple Church going?

  2. Bruce McElmurray says:

    Dan: Great lesson, but is is being practiced today? I have two friends who are fully and faithfully professed Christian but because they are Indian they are constantly challenged on their Christianity and kept on the outer fringe of the Christian community. Their faith is so much stronger than most of those I see who call themselves Christian. Their walk with the Lord is so close I wish I could be that faithful and true myself. Through all the demeaning comments they endure they demonstrate their Christianity with love and patience.
    One is Apache and one is Mohawk. When they turned their lives over to our Lord did they become less of a Mohawk or Apache? Did I become less Irish? How can we “Christians” exclude some really faithful Christians and not others who may be from different cultures? I continue to struggle with why things like this happen but don’t find many answers. Seems Christians much like the secular world find it easier to turn a blind eye. Does worshiping Jesus in a long house differ from that brick or wood structure with a cross on top down the block? Why are some frowned upon because of their culture while others with far less faith from different cultures are elevated?
    Both friends state that if you want to convince them you are Christian then show them your Christianity and don’t just tell them. They show theirs every day. I personally find this very sad that there is differences between Christians due to culture. Your lesson seems on point, but the reality within the Christian community does not always support your teaching. I have personally seen them demeaned and seriously questioned on how they can be Christian when all you have to do is open your eyes to see their love of Jesus. Good lesson but from where I sit I see a gulf between some Christians for reasons that make no sense to me.

  3. Dan Lacich says:

    Bruce,

    Thanks for the comments. I completely agree with you on the divide between what Jesus tells us to do and what we actually do. We make such a big deal of things that are not to be an issue at all, things that are cultural. And we ignore the weighty things that God calls us to. My heart breaks for your Apache and Mohawk friends. I suspect that they have a much better perspective on what it means to follow Jesus than many other people do. I would love to meet them someday. In fact, I would love to write about their story. I think it is something that needs to be told.
    Dan

  4. Bruce McElmurray says:

    Dan: I agree that their story needs to be told. Here is what one wrote me this morning in his daily e-mail. He is a Christian minister and I am happy to share his words and his friendship. It puts a lump in my throat…

    WHEN THE TRUTH HURTS

    John 8:31-32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    When does the truth hurt? This is a question that often comes to me when I try to express the injustices that have been done to our people. People love to hear of the glorious days when we lived in tepees and in harmony with the Creation. Sad to say, that only happens in fairy tales, books and movies about our people. One reason I hate to see Indian movies is because most of them hardly end in a good way. They end with the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. It hurts to hear about the bad things that once happened to our tribes. It hurts to hear of the conflicts that occurred as the land we once took care of was taken away from us. It hurts to hear what the church did in the name of Christianity to our people throughout the Americas. People do not want to hear the truth.

    Jesus talked about the truth, for it is the truth that sets us free. Free from the things that keep us from seeing God the Creator as He is supposed to be seen. Jesus said, “…If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth sets us free from the things that keep us from knowing God and walking alongside Him and His desires. It all starts with our desire to do what is right and just before God the Creator. When we start to do what He desires of us, we start seeing the truth as the truth should be seen, and freedom comes to our heart. So when does the truth hurt? When the truth reveals the wrong we have done to others and how we can help change a life or the lives of a nation. It is at this point that we ask God the Creator to help us find a way to fix the wrong that has been done. When does the truth hurt? When it reveals what you should do and you do it not.

  5. Ed says:

    Dan,

    Great word. Thank you (as always) for letting the Holy Spirit guide you as you share your insights. My experience in Eatonville has surely led me to the same experiences that you share in your blog. And best of all, by becoming more like others (and thus more like Christ) the people I was led to serve ALWAYS provide me with more than I provide them! I never feel more clean, more free and closer to God than after I’ve spent time with the kids I have been working with for years. They are a great blessing to me…and so are you! God bless you brother! Keep up the good work and keep your head down.

  6. martin says:

    very powerful & humbling exposition of this verse of scripture. I aim to apply it

  7. Bob says:

    John 8:31-32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Paul took this Scripture to another level. By integrating himself into various cultures so they would also know they would ” know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. He did so without compromising the words of God. I have found that even in U.S,. “main stream churches”, there exist pockets of cliques,polititics, ( politicics-the ultimate division in the church ) , and or the entire church has a clique. Out side of our Christ words. And it seems the most hardened barrier to break through.

    John 13:34,35…

    A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35″By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

    I we, you ,must wear this shield of truth, into all of our daily lives. And surprisingly it is met with resistance in the church.But we know that Gods love trumps all things. That is what we are sustained by. And we are all things to all people. Our lives in Jesus is not easy. They are not supposed to be. Constant challenges, trials, and certainly tribulation are the norm. But it is by Gods truth, his love, his enduring that carries us through each moment. . God is so good, so faithful, so unmovable. our rock, our refuge. So that we can be all things to all people.
    We are so blessed to be his children. WE need each other.

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