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All Things To All People

I ran across this picture of my youngest daughter from her trip to Costa Rica this morning. (She's the one on the far left.)

Legacy's Mission Team is hosting an informational luncheon this Sunday to introduce everyone to our planned mission trips this summer, and I started going back over pictures from trips Summer and I made last year when I ran across this one.

The picture also caught my attention as I prepare for my message this Sunday, "Winning the Race," 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. That group of girls looks something like Paul longed for the ekklesia in Corinth to become. We usually talk about either verses 19-23 as a topic: being all things to all people so that we might win some, an evangelism sermon; or, verses 24-27 as another topic on running the race of faith, a message on spiritual disciplines.

We seldom read the verse together as Paul wrote them. (Partially because of the verse numbers, paragraph divisions and headings put in the text centuries after Paul penned them.) Go back and read all the verses together. If you want the full effect of Paul's message in that part of the letter, read 1 Corinthians 8:1 to 11:1.

In verse 19-23 he talked about making himself a slave to all people groups: ethnic and religious in order that he might "win" or "gain a hearing with" some. He then used a metaphor from the Isthmian Games that played in Corinth while he was there earlier to tell his friends that it took discipline and endurance to live that kind of life.

To subject our freedom to serve others in their culture or beliefs in order to help them trust Jesus is killer work. No marathon training I've been through is as hard or as long. To live like Paul requires making adjustments every day to get into the world of others, to actually hear them, and to patiently love them to Jesus so they will have an opportunity to trust him. Talk about focus and discipline.

I am pleased my daughter went on a trip to serve the children in Costa Rica, and I hope she and I will make other trips to serve others in the name of Jesus. But I am challenged to walk across the street behind our church buildings to enter the multi-ethnic, pluralistic culture immediately surround our campus. I don't know I can live the lifestyle of Paul to its fullest yet. It easier to run a marathon.