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Selfless Gospel

1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made 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 people 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. (NIVUK)

Roman citizens had freedom to travel over the whole empire; they could vote, hold public office, make legal contracts, buy land and property, and they were protected under the Roman justice system and could demand a fair trial. Paul was such a citizen. He was a free man and not a slave to anybody. He was also a high ranking Jewish teacher. And yet, in order to win people for Christ, he did not use his status to exert power over people.
Instead, Paul loved people and came alongside them where they were: rich or poor, weak or strong. He was equally at home teaching in synagogues as in the market place or lecture theatres. He addressed Jews as a Jew; teaching from the Old Testament and even following their customs in order to gain a hearing for the Gospel. But to the Gentiles, Paul used Socratic arguments and logical apologetics to lead their minds towards the majesty of the risen Christ.
The narrative in Acts only skims the surface of Paul's interactions with a vast variety of people, but here he indicates that he felt equally compassionate in the gutter with beggars as he did talking with kings. Whatever their social position they were all sinners who needed to be saved, and his passion was to communicate the gospel of salvation in a winsome way to everybody. He knew that only a few would respond, and he did not know which ones they might be – so he was willing to get alongside anybody who would listen … whatever the cost to himself.
We tend to be best able to communicate to the sort of people we understand; people like us. But if we love people for God's sake, irrespective of their culture or background, then we will be able to share the gospel and some will be saved. Being 'all things to all people' does not mean joining them in godless behaviour or simply immersing yourself in their culture; it means choosing to love people, understand them and communicate the truth of the gospel to them. Speak about Jesus to the shopkeepers you know, business colleagues, beggars you pass each day and immigrants. They are all waiting for someone to take an interest in them: as you do, you can tell them about Jesus because He has always been very interested in them. Gospel people build bridges of understanding so that they can cross those bridges with the gospel. Is that part of your lifestyle?

God of love. Thank You for the interest You have taken in me, and for Your care in sending someone to tell me about Jesus and how to be saved. Forgive me when I am selfish, thinking about my own interests and not the people for whom Jesus has died. Please help me to think differently about the purpose of my life, so that I may choose to love people who are not like myself, as well as those who are, and seek to communicate the gospel to them in ways each can understand. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams