All Things to All People for the Sake of the Gospel

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:20-23

Paul was a Jew. To remain there would have been more comfortable. It would have been familiar. But, Paul knew he had a call from God to reach out beyond the community with which he identified. After encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was given a new mission. Paul was going to reach out to non-Jews, the Gentiles, to bring to them the good news of Jesus Christ.

He didn’t leave behind his Jewish brothers and sisters. He still appeared in the synagogues teaching, he still taught from the scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament, and he did all he could in order to “win Jews.”

But he worked hard to be able to build a bridge to another group of people. He needed to learn a new language and interact with a new culture. Paul worked tirelessly in following his calling to reach the Gentiles. And he does it all for the sake of the gospel.

Can you imagine putting in the the time it takes to learn a new language in order to follow the call of God in your life? Or how about giving up whatever strength we have in order to meet people in their weakness? He does it all to better reach them with the gospel.

This pattern that Paul follows is the one set forth by Jesus Christ. God came to humanity and became human. Jesus took on flesh, lived a life just us, endured temptation, humbled himself, faced persecution, and he did it all so that he may make for himself a people.

What do we give up to identify with someone God is calling us to serve? What are we willing to change? Is the goal of bringing the gospel to more people so captivating that we’d even consider changing?

Take to the World

Yesterday’s post about being sent brought to mind the song, Take to the World, by Derek Webb. I commend to you his whole album, but read these lyrics and listen to the song. It does a good job of describing our being sent.

Go in peace to love and to serve
And let your ears ring long with what you have heard
And may the bread on your tongue leave a trail of crumbs
To lead the hungry back to the place that you are from

And take to the world this love hope and faith
Take to the world this rare relentless grace
And like the three in one
Know you must become what you want to save
‘Cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world

Go and go far take light deep in the dark
Believe what’s true use it as all, even you
May the bread on your tongue leave a trail of crumbs
To lead the hungry back to the place you are from

Sent by Jesus

Our focus passage this week asks the question, “What does it mean to be sent by Jesus?” and “In what way had the Father sent him?” These questions refer to John 20:21, in which Jesus says:

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.

We could spend a great deal of time pondering that one verse. In John, Jesus is constantly drawing attention to the fact that he is sent from God. He says that the Father has sent him, the Father has given him words to say, and he is doing his Father’s work. His being sent is a crucial element to his being here among us. And now we’ve been sent “as the Father has sent [Jesus].”

So as you finish John, and then as we’ll next read through Luke, look for what characterizes the way in which Jesus is sent. See how Jesus puts the Father’s will first and the way his goal is to speak what the Father has spoken to him. Look elsewhere in the New Testament like Philippians 2 and see that in being sent, Jesus humbled himself–even to the point of the cross. Jesus took on flesh, faced temptation, was mocked, was hungry, and of course, in his being sent, he was to go to the cross. His sending was for a mission of love in which he put the needs of others and the will of the Father first. Jesus died on this mission, and after he was raised, knowing full well all that being sent entails, speaks a word of peace to the disciples, and charges them to go into the world. If we head his words, how much do we need his peace to face the fears we will encounter, and how thankful are we that he has breathed upon us his Holy Spirit to strengthen us and comfort us along the way?