All Things to All Men

16 10 2013

While in Savannah a few days ago, my wife and I met a very delightful and friendly young woman named Zerah from the country of Bahrain. Her husband was from Saudi Arabia and was an airline pilot in the States for training. Through accented yet perfect English, she told us about her homeland, the liberty of the female gender that we have in America, and the female-related restrictions among Muslims. She spoke of a male-dominated culture both here and abroad. As a former airline stewardess and no children, she had the means of travel and the resources to purchase things like a new Porche. Although I did not reveal myself as a Baptist pastor, I pursued a conversation in her nominal Muslim faith and her view about Christianity.

She emphasized the restrictions that all religion placed on its followers. Although I do not consider myself legalistic among believers, I thought of how those of the world view those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. No matter what title we give ourselves I had to wonder…are we being a stumbling block to those whom Christ came to seek and save?  Zerah’s honesty was brutal yet kind, a wake-up call for me to consider how we relate to those who are not like us.

Paul was a Jew by birth, a Hebrew of Hebrews, yet he was called to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Gentiles were often counted as unclean among the Jews; they were to be avoided and their lifestyle was to be rejected. In spite of his life-long issues with the Gentiles, God called him to reach the Gentiles. Ironic, isn’t it? To those of us who have trouble balancing a walk of obedience before the Lord and a life of sincere transparency before the world, Paul gives this advice in 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23:
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.  And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

Paul did not focus on trivial things, nor did he  separate himself from the very people who were a part of his mission field.  He did not want his walk in this world to be turning away the very people who he was trying to win to Christ.  As one commentator puts it: Just as he did not allow material things to hinder his ministry, so he did not let narrow attitudes or rigid approaches become obstacles to his testimony.

Narrow attitudes, rigid approaches, and obstacles are not a set of guidelines for winning the lost, yet that is how it appears to them. We need to loosen up, lighten up on the hell fire and brimstone, go where they go, and do what they do within the bounds of Scripture, integrity, and moral purity. We are the salt of the earth but that doesn’t mean we throw the whole shaker at them!

The Zerahs’ of the world need us to be real, loving, understanding, listening, and properly becoming all things to all men. They need the life-giving gospel of Christ.

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