I Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV) Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made 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 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.
As a child, I loved to run around my grandparents yard exploring. So many things packed in a small lot, a garage filled with “treasures”, a basement spooky and dark, an earthworm pile to dig in, and lots of other discoveries to be made. The girl behind the house, Ann, and I would climb into a cumquat tree while my grandmother brought us water to wash the fruit that we were content eating right off the limbs. On good days, we would find lizards called chameleons hiding up there. I am pretty sure looking back that while we were only “playing” with them that these tiny creatures were quite certain it was torture leading to death. We would move them from place to place to watch their skin change to camouflage them. It was an involuntary reflex given to them by God to allow them protection from predators. With no other defense, they could just become one with whatever was closest to them by blending in. Too bad it didn’t work for them when it came to two curious girls.
Paul expressed his freedom in I Corinthians 9, “though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” If we are free, and Christ has set us completely free (John 8:36), then why does Paul tell us that he made himself a slave to everyone. Why do we call ourselves “slaves” when Christ has set us free? He goes on to admit “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” What is the point of following Jesus if we are not free at all? Freedom is offered to us by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. When we are born again, it is the opportunity to choose who we will serve. Our life is bought with a price. It belongs to Jesus Christ. Or we can give it to anything else we choose forfeiting eternal life.
I choose to follow Jesus Christ. In doing so, this passage is of the utmost important to understanding exactly what I am called to do. It is not what many people think. No one comes to Jesus out of obligation but in desperation. The realization that I cannot save myself and death is imminent for starters. Once I encountered God’s Love, there really was no other logical choice. How do I make this logical to others? The same way that Jesus offered it to us. In love. In relationship. Patiently. He relentlessly pursued me with unfailing love until I turned around to receive Him. This is how we win the heart of others for Jesus. I must become all things to all people in order to express the Love of God to them. They don’t need fancy programs. They aren’t looking for a place to go or fit in on Sundays. They are looking for satisfaction, peace, joy and hope. I happen to have that hidden in my heart. I must learn to express it more.
Our church has a set of values that we are committed to. They are one of my favorite things about this body to believers. Challenging us to pursue others with the same intensity, commitment and relentlessness that God overtook us with. Value #4 is my focus today. Actually it has been for a number of weeks now, and then I found I Corinthians 9. Value #4 is that we will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ. To reach people who no one is reaching we will do things no one is doing. Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone. This will shove you out of it completely if it becomes one’s own personal value. To reach others exactly where there are rather than waiting until they come to us is challenging enough. It is humbling to strike up a conversation with a stranger and mention the Lord. However, our lifestyle of love requires reaching out to others. All others. Showing them the love that we have found. We must learn to blend in a little better with those around us. We are not called to be separate from people just sin.
Galatians 5:1-6 (NIV) It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
What is your reaction when a person comes to church in what you deem inappropriate clothing? What is your response when someone doesn’t know how to act in the House of God? What if a homeless man came into your facility and sat right down next to you? Or what if “God forbid” he “took” your seat? What if the person next to you reeked of smoke and alcohol? What if they were covered with tattoos, had a nose piercing and a formidable set of gauges in the ears? What would you do? Could you speak to them convincingly that you were truly glad that they came? Would you be able to make them comfortable outside of any conviction of God’s Spirit on them? Could you check in a gay couple’s baby in your nursery without judging them? See God not looking to build a church but a bride for His Son. The Body of Christ is the Bride of Christ. Until we stop hacking off body parts, revival will not come because we are not facilitating life.
Ephesians 5:29-32 (NIV) After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:1) Paul is instructing Christian households in this passage, but I feel it applies to all our relationships. We must submit to one another. Before you point out that it is specifically talking about husbands and wives, let me assure you that it is relevant in all relationships as the Body of Christ. “ For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5) We must stop looking at ourselves as a church with four walls and air-conditioned comfort and perfect programs and see ourselves joined together as a living breathing body. All of those different people referenced above are parts of our body – like it or not. Jesus died for each and every one of them just like you because He loves them equally! If our body is hurting, broken or suddenly becomes weak we will seek immediate attention to alleviate the problem. Why? We need our arm, hand, leg, or any other body part. We must see others the very same way. They are part of the body. They complete the Bride. If we truly long for the return of Christ, we must get in physical shape as the Body of Christ and complete the transformation into His Bride.
Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV) You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The connection between the Body of Christ is simply – it is the Love of God that pulls us all together. To keep in mind that all sin is repugnant to God eliminates the hierarchy of pride that makes us feel a little more godly and just a bit more holy than others. It was my sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross. It was His Love for each of us that kept Him there. One sin demanded total sacrifice. There is no one who is righteous. It is His Grace that is sufficient for me not anything I will ever do for the Lord. With this in mind, it is up to me to share this love with every other human being that I come in contact with. They don’t need my religion. My opinion. I don’t need to tell them how to dress, how to speak, how to live, or what to do. I need to show them the Love of God in all its perfection, completeness and fullness so that they will fall in love with Jesus, too. It is then that His Love will transform their life just as it has mine and perhaps yours, too. Come on church! We must stop crying out for revival until the doors of our heart are opened as wide as the ones to our buildings. We must stop calling for the return of Jesus until His Bride is fully prepared to meet Him in the air. We have a lot of loving to do! We have a lot of humility to find! We must do a better job of spreading His Love to everyone! We must do anything short of sin to show others the Love of God. I must use my freedom in Christ not to become a slave to anything but God’s Love. Otherwise, I too am in need of the freedom that I first found in the Lord. To maintain our freedom will always be walking in love in the midst of the lost, sick, addicted, unwanted, and neglected in life. It will mean humbling ourselves in all situations and in every situation proving our allegiance to Christ. This means things like insults, offenses and harsh words bounce off the shield of faith and breastplate of righteousness that covers us. We need Jesus. We all need Jesus. He loves you. He loves me. He loves us all! The chameleon can blend in with whatever their surroundings are. It doesn’t make it that think it is close to. It is still a chameleon. When the Love of God fully transforms us into His Children and we become true believers – I believe that we will be able to understand Paul’s Instructions and be like a chameleon, true to our beliefs and who we are in Christ no matter what our environment or situation yet doing anything short of sin to reach those around us.
I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV) If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.