For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some. I do it all for the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9: 19, 22, 23 (ESV)
Paul clearly desired that all peoples should experience the blessings that accompany salvation and entry to the Kingdom of God with no partiality, partitions, or exceptions. For he desired forthright fellowship with them in the presence of God’s Glory. He was truly passionate about it.
Paul had a simple but effective strategy, become a human chameleon. One might conclude that he was deceiving people but when you consider his goal, all is forgiven. And like a chameleon, he adjusted his persona a shade or two to better match the nature of his cultural setting. For the heart is open and most at ease in one’s accustomed environment. He accomplished this transition by learning the people’s traits, customs, biases, and most importantly by identifying with the root causes of their hardships and grievances.
So, like a chameleon, he remained focused on achieving his purpose by approaching close to the local population without alerting their defenses. He could then converse with people anytime and anyplace. And to do this, he didn’t need to lie; he just humbled himself before God and demonstrated genuine concern and empathy with the people’s condition. He may even have listened patiently and intently before he ever spoke a word about Christ Jesus and his Gospel message.
Isn’t it curious that this is the same manner in which our Father first chooses to meet and become acquainted with us; unpretentiously, humbly, sincerely, and with compassion. He patiently and lovingly listens to our anguished voices, our deep concerns, and the silent pleas of our heart. We must address the desperate needs of people before we can talk about our joy in the Lord. And while God has many distinguishing facets to his wondrous nature, let us remember that God is always gracious and forgiving.
Loving concern from a humble heart was Paul’s key to disarming his intended audience, the universal passport into people’s hearts. It is priceless as it allows the introduction of God’s perfect love and eternal plan to others while remaining openly contrite and transparent ourselves. And while being effortlessly disarming, it legitimizes our sincerity.
Dear Heavenly Father, Paul may change on occasion, but you never will. Enable us to take a lesson from Paul, and while remaining who you created us to be, let us gently disarm and draw near our neighbors through sincere concern, loving-kindness, and humility born of an openly contrite heart. Amen.
A F Fischer