Monday, February 06, 2012

Becoming a servant to all

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

TO CHEW ON: "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more." 1 Corinthians 9:19

How far would you go to facilitate spreading the gospel?

Yesterday we saw Paul give up his right to be paid for ministry so the gospel would not be hindered. Today he tells the Corinthians he will forfeit other rights as well, as in giving up his right to do as he pleases. He says that when he is with Jews, he will live like the Jews. When he is with those who keep the law, he will himself keep the law. When he is with those who don't keep the law, he won't make a point or observing it. When he is with the weak, he will live with their standards in mind. (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

A footnote in my Bible explains:
"While Paul himself was free from rigid scruples, he was constrained by the weaknesses of others that he might ultimately win them for Christ. Without violating biblical morality, he would go to any length to enter the world of others and lead them to salvation" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1591.
I like that thought of entering the world of others. When we do that we use empathy to see life through their eyes. When we limit ourselves to behaviours that fit into their world we are, in a very small way, doing what Jesus did when He left heaven and took on human flesh.

How might that look for us in practical terms?
- It might mean declining alcoholic beverages even though we personally feel it's okay drink in moderation.

- It might mean adjusting what we wear so as to fit in and not offend.

- It might mean accepting worship music that isn't our preferred style even though it assaults our ears with volume or lulls us to sleep with many stanzas and old-fashioned language.

Can you think of other things?

I ask myself, can I honestly say "I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some?" Can you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to love others and the gospel so much that I am willing to give up personal rights and preferences to see it go forward. Amen.

MORE: An story from Yemen

Audra Grace Shelby and her husband were missionaries in Yemen. After months of language study they moved to the city of Hudaydah to start their ministry.

Audra was lonely in Hudaydah. She found it hard to meet the locals and so was overjoyed to meet some American and European women whose husbands worked for a Canadian oil company. One day they invited her to go shopping with them. That put her in a dilemma. In her own words:

"I looked at myself in the mirror. I was wearing the most American outfit I owned: khaki pants and a button-down blouse. I held my balto* limply in one hand and my hejab** in the other.

'Should I wear them?' I whispered at my reflection with my eyes on the balto and hejab. 'What if they get mad and don't invite me back?'

... their invitation had put me in a quandary. These women were not personally interested in the local women. .... They did not wear baltos. In the Tihama heat they wore T-shirts with cotton skirts, bare legs and sandals. They were polite to the locals but were not interested in friendships with them.

I was. But I wanted my English-speaking friends too...." - Audra Grace Shelby, Behind the Veils of Yemen: How an American Woman Risked Her Life, Family, and Faith to Bring Jesus to Muslim Women, pp. 179-180.

What would you have done?

Audra ended up wearing her hejab. It was, predictably, the last time those women invited her along. But through the incident, she made some new Yemeni friends.

* balto: an all-encompassing black cloak.
** hejab: (also spelled 'hijab') refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general. 

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