Posted on January 12, 2010 - by Jamie Wamsley
“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
One thing I like about God is that if there’s anything that God really likes – it’s people.
And by people, I mean you and me. And, yes, pretty much everyone else you know too. And pretty much everyone else too. Everyone.
God really likes everyone.
And I like that about God.
There’s this passage of Scripture that I have always liked, it has some very compelling ideas – but I’ve always heard it explained with respect to God-followers.
I’ve never heard anyone mention what the passage says about God – but in my mind, that’s the best part.
Here’s what the passage says – it’s the apostle Paul speaking – and it’s found in the first book of Corinthians, chapter 9, verses 19-22…
“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.”
Here’s the things that most quickly strike me about this passage -
First. Paul’s driving ambition (he says it’s more important to him than even his own personal freedom) is to help people discover a relationship with God. (i.e., “to win as many as possible”)
Paul’s not really coy, is he? He just comes out and says it. Basically – God is the greatest thing going and the best thing I can do for them is to help them experience what a relationship with Jesus is like for themselves. Paul’s right, in my opinion, God is the answer – and at the risk of making what sounds like some kind of gross overstatement – it really doesn’t matter what the question is.
Second, Paul removes every non-essential barrier that he possibly can in his friendships with others; he doesn’t want people to get distracted by cultural differences, worship styles or even their level of personal affinity. Rather, he makes every attempt to connect with them and to find as much common ground as he possibly can. This is what Paul is getting at with all the, “To the…, I became like a…” talk.
Presently – I wonder what the implications of that are for the Church today – with respect to how we address political issues, or what our church services “feel” like, or what traditions/practices we cling to and what we let go of. I probably don’t have many of the answers, but I’m pretty convinced we should at least be asking the questions.
Third, Paul has this “do-whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done” mentality. I get that. I respect that. In his own words, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” In my words, “There is nothing – nothing – that I wouldn’t do, apart from compromising the message of the gospel itself – to help anyone, anywhere move a little bit closer to God and perhaps even find him.” How do you not love that attitude? How do you not love this guy?
OK, you’re saying, you found some cute little corner of the Bible that describes how much one guy liked God and wanted others to like him too. So what? Where’s the pay-off? Why does this passage really matter?
It matters when we start to consider why Paul was acting this way. It matters when we realize that this was a learned behavior. It matters that Paul had this modeled for him first. It matters because this passage is way less about Paul than it is about Jesus.
As crazy-bent as Paul was to reach others, it is because he saw how crazy-bent God was first.
It was Jesus who set aside his own divinity, who left the security of heaven and who came to earth solely because he wanted to reconcile a lost world to himself – or in other language, “to win as many as possible.”
It was Jesus who broke through the most difficult barriers between us and him – the impossibility of grasping or understanding or relating to distant celestial deity – by taking the form of a human being. He became a person just like you and I – so that we could know him, learn from him and begin to genuinely love him in a way that allow for a genuine relationship with the God of the universe.
And it was Jesus who did whatever it took – laying down his own life, sacrificing himself because he was the only acceptable payment for our sins against God – to help us find our way back to him.
It was Jesus that – regardless of the personal cost – figured out how to get the job done.
That’s the one thing I like about God.
What do you like about God? I’d love to hear from you…
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