Summary: Doing whatever it takes to spread the Gospel
Epiphany 5—1 Corinthians 9 19-23 - Whatever it takes
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 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.
Whatever it takes
Gentlemen, do you know what this Friday is? It’s Valentine’s Day! You see, it’s a good thing I mentioned it, otherwise you would have forgotten, and then you’d be in the doghouse. This morning I’m going to go over a couple of things you can think about between now and Valentine’s Day.
If you learn to say them well, it will go well for you on the upcoming special day. I want you to repeat after me: “I would climb the highest mountain . . . I would swim the deepest ocean . . . I would cross crocodile-infested rivers . . . I would cross the most scorched desert . . . with no shoes on my feet . . . if you will be mine.”
That’s what you should say to your beloved on Valentine’s Day. Now, it helps if you can commit those lines to memory, but if you can’t, just write them down and keep them somewhere that you can look at them each day until Friday. But, take my word for it, it really works a lot better if you look like you mean it—so try not to read it off the page, if you can help it.
Obviously I’m being a bit facetious here, but my point is this: When it comes to communicating your love for someone, how will you do it? What steps will you take to show that special someone how important she is to you? The answer is simple: You will do whatever it takes.
Friends, you and I are witnesses to a love story. It’s the story of a love so high, so deep, so wide, so broad, that it transcends human understanding. It’s the story of God’s love for sinful human beings, the love of our heavenly Father that desires that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s the story of God’s love so intense that he did not spare his only Son, but gave him up on the cross to pay for the sins of the world.
You and I are witnesses to the love of God. Now, when it comes to communicating that love to the world around us and touching lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ, how are we going to do it? What steps will we take to get the message out of God’s eternal love and touch lives with the powerful message of the gospel? For the Christian there is only one answer: By the power and grace of God, we will do whatever it takes.
That’s the message that St. Paul wants to communicate with us this morning in his 1st letter to the Corinthian Christians. He describes his efforts to do whatever it took to share the word of God with people around him. He says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many s possible.”
Do you understand what Paul is saying there? Even though he had rights and freedoms as a citizen, he willfully chose not to exercise those rights but instead submitted himself and made himself subject to the people around him, so that he could meet people where they are at and relate to them in their lives. St Paul writes, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”
Do you grasp what it meant for Paul to “become like a Jew?” It meant putting aside his Christian liberty and submitting to the Jewish legal requirements about what you could eat and when you could work and all the rituals you had to follow and whom you could and could not associate with. He submitted himself to the requirements of that Jewish law so that he could mingle with the Jewish community and relate to Jews where they were at in life.