Summary: Principles and methods of identifying with everyone so we can bring Christ’s saving message to as many as possible
How Paul Benefited By Becoming All Things to All Men
Illustration:Suffering from terminal spinal cancer at the age or 47, former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano spoke with a reporter. He looked back on his life and told a story about himself as a 23-year-old coach of a small college team. "Why is winning so important to you?" the players asked Valvano.
"Because the final score defines you," he said, "You lose, ergo, you’re a loser. You win, ergo, you’re a winner."
"No," the players insisted. "Participation is what matters. Trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose -- that’s what defines you."
It took 24 more years of living. It took the coach bolting up from the mattress three or four times a night with his T-shirt soaked with sweat and his teeth rattling from the fever chill of chemotherapy and the terror of seeing himself die repeatedly in his dreams. It took all that for him to say it: "Those kids were right. It’s effort, not result. It’s trying. God, what a great human being I could have been if I’d had this awareness back then."
Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated, quoted in Reader’s Digest.
Some people wonder if it is right to accommodate oneself to another culture for any reason. Paul the apostle wrote, "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. . . To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." (I Cor. 9:19-25)
1. Paul demonstrated cultural, emotional, and mental adaptability for God’s purposes. Few people are willing to adapt themselves to their situations because of the complexities involved. Thankfully, Paul’s flexibility in methods did not alter his obedience to God’s divine plans. When Paul went to a Jewish community he spoke, acted and thought in terms that Jews would respond best to.
Example: When Paul went to a city filled with Roman officials, he turned on his Roman citizenship mannerisms. By exercising a wide variety of social, cultural and religious contextual skills, Paul communicated truth in acceptable means.
2. Paul’ s flexibility evidenced a servant’s attitude. Most of us are not willing to alter our approaches to every person we meet because of discipline that is required. The great apostle came to all classes of people and races with an attitude of presenting the gospel in a way that would be most appetizing from their world-view. Be a student of other’s cultures for the sake of the gospel.
3. Paul curtailed his personal privileges to cross cultural barriers. It is not easy to work in a culture that is different from your own. However, Paul gave us a great example of a person who knew how to humbly surrender his cultural norms and temporarily take on the culturally acceptable practices of another people for the sake of Jesus.
I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific.