“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” (1 Co. 9:19)
Paul is saying that he has become all things to all people in order to bring them the gospel. To the Jew he became like a Jew to win over the Jews. To those under the law, or outside the law, or to the weak, he became like them to win them over for Christ. He established himself as a prototype for peer ministry and the example that missionaries have followed for centuries — build relationships, serve needs, be an example, and then share the gospel message.
Jesus suggested similar instructions when sending out the seventy-two. He told them not to move around from house to house, but stay in one house, extend to it your peace, serve needs like healing the sick, and then tell them that the Kingdom of God is at hand. (Luke 10:1-12)
Today, we live in a fast food, instant messaging world. In business, we look for “quit hits.” But changing lives and transforming culture are long term projects. Let’s look at a real life example.
Barbara worked as a clerk in the juvenile court for a city in California. While she was willing to witness to the Lord when she had the opportunity, she found it hard because of the negative environment stemming from the nature of the cases before the court, the people involved in the cases and the court employees. “Part of my prayer on my way to work every day was to ask that others would see Christ and his love in me,” Barbara said. “While I invited people to my church and shared stories about how God helped me during tough times, I did not see any results.”
When it came time for the court clerks’ Christmas party, Barbara did not plan to attend, but her fellow clerks kept insisting that she had to go. Finally one of them whispered in her ear, “You have to go. You have been elected ‘Clerk of the Year.’” At the presentation, Barbara learned to her surprise that Christ’s presence in her had come through. Some of the things said in her honor were:
“I have never heard her say anything bad about anyone.” “I know better than to bad-mouth people around her. She just looks at me and I think, ‘Oops! Can I reword that?’” “I know if I need help with my work, she won’t get mad or make me feel stupid.” “If you tell her something it won’t get spread all over Juvenile Hall.” “If I need advice, I know I can talk to her. She sees both sides and helps me see the other side too.” “I know she prays for me.”
Barbara was being all things to her co-employees at Juvenile Hall in order to bring God’s presence and the gospel message to the people there – a long term project.
Are you willing to build relationships to bring people to Christ and change the world around you?