Are You Flexible for the Gospel?

One should always be ready to abandon the appeal to one’s rights.

It is also important to recognize that becoming a world Christian—one whose commitment to Jesus and his kingdom is self-consciously set above national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances—cannot be an end in itself. The aim is not to become so international and culturally flexible that one does not fit in anywhere; the aim, rather, is to become so understanding and flexible that one can soon fit in and further the gospel anywhere.

 

In 1 Corinthians, Paul repeatedly makes the point that we must adopt as our aim the salvation of men and women. “I make myself a slave to everyone,” he writes, “to win as many as possible” (9:19). “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews” (9:20). “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak” (9:22). And this: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (9:22).

At the end of the section, the same thought is still on his mind:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (10:31–11:1)

Will It Hinder or Help the Gospel?

Paul is not interested in setting aside his rights as an end in itself. “I make myself a slave to everyone,” he points out, “to win as many as possible” (9:19). If no one’s spiritual wellbeing will be threatened if he eats meat, he will order a steak. In some instances, standing on one’s rights may be exactly what is called for.

Yet one should always be ready to abandon the appeal to one’s rights. Precisely which is the wisest course of action in a particular crisis may largely be determined by this question about the aim and effect of the options: How will this course of action contribute to, or hinder, the work of the gospel?

It is also important to recognize that becoming a world Christian—one whose commitment to Jesus and his kingdom is self-consciously set above national, cultural, linguistic, and racial allegiances—cannot be an end in itself. The aim is not to become so international and culturally flexible that one does not fit in anywhere; the aim, rather, is to become so understanding and flexible that one can soon fit in and further the gospel anywhere.

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