By Robert Halsey Pine
“I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:16-23 NRSV).
I have been guilty of trying to please everyone, of trying to be all things to all people. While this kind of commitment was admirable in St. Paul’s case, in my life my commitment to people has not always contained that important ingredient of sharing the gospel. To be all things to all people is an empty exercise unless we have a commitment to share the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. Other people may consider us good, but if we are not seeking the Lord in our lives we are giving in to the natural world’s priorities when we become all things to all people.
When we have committed to love and serve the Lord, we can say as Paul said, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” This kind of servitude is admirable and productive for the Lord. When our goal is to share the gospel of Lord with others in our daily lives to help bring them to salvation, Paul tells us that we will share in its blessings as well. When we want to be all things to all people without the Lord, we are being self-centered. We are doing it for ourselves, for our good reputation.
As humans our nature is to want to be accepted. Most people don’t want to be left on the outside. Many people feel unloved. In prison ministry it is not unusual to find inmates who have never experienced love from anybody. There are also many on the outside that have never felt loved. To help bring these to the Lord is worth being a slave for. When we have recognized that the Lord is always right by our side loving us, we must surely pass it on with a sense of urgency, as did Paul.
St. Paul said, “To the weak I became weak, so that I might by all means save some.” Once we surrender ourselves to the Lord, we can be effective in other people’s lives. We need not be shy or embarrassed, pompous or arrogant. When we abandon ourselves to Him, it is not us doing the good but Him. We volunteer to be a conduit for God to be used in whatever way He chooses for us. We must open ourselves to Him for His service.
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.