1 Corinthians 9: 19 – 23 (NCV) I am free and belong to no one. But I make myself a slave to all people to win as many as I can. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win the Jews. I myself am not ruled by the law. But to those who are ruled by the law I became like a person who is ruled by the law. I did this to win those who are ruled by the law. To those who are without the law I became like a person who is without the law. I did this to win those people who are without the law. (But really, I am not without God’s law—I am ruled by Christ’s law.) To those who are weak, I became weak so I could win the weak. I have become all things to all people so I could save some of them in any way possible. I do all this because of the Good News and so I can share in its blessings.
As I read these verses in 1 Corinthians 9, I couldn’t help but think about how Paul lived his life with a deep sense of passion. Before he even met Christ (Saul in those days), he persecuted the early Christian church, setting out to suppress and destroy everything it represented at all costs. He also publicly acknowledged his part in the stoning of Stephen (the first Christian martyr). As passionate as he was about killing Christians, there was a defining moment on a dusty road where the paradigm shifted.
In an instant Saul, the persecutor of Christ followers of his day, bumped into the very Christ he loathed. There, in the middle of the road, Jesus gave him a new passion – reaching the unsaved. He also gave him a new name… Paul.
These verses in 1 Corinthians tell us that Paul met people where they were so that he could form a common bond with them and show them the love of Christ. He became a slave to them, it says in verse 19. Look closely, it doesn’t say that he allowed the people to influence him in any way, he was guided and directed by Jesus each step of the way. Paul was simply following the model that Jesus set when He (Jesus) walked the earth. Jesus came to serve – not to be served. So Paul set out to serve the people he met with everything he had.
But why? Why would he even bother to do that? He was an apostle, he was educated, he had a personal encounter with Christ and his life was changed drastically. All he really had to do was tell people about his experience, right? So why did he care so much about where the people he tried to reach were? I think Paul understood that people aren’t really going to believe or care what anyone has to say until you can get on their level and meet a need in their life. He made people feel comfortable and accepted, and was very sensitive to where they were in their life. He looked for opportunities to show people Jesus – and he reached his known world for Christ.
So let’s personalize it. How are you reaching people for Christ? Have you tried to meet a need in someone’s life? Have you gone out of your way to serve sacrificially?