Lectionary Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (NRSV)
One of the most fascinating creatures I’ve observed in the wild was an octopus while snorkeling off the coast of St. John’s island a few years ago. The water was only about four feet so we could really see it moving around. Sheryl captured it on video and you can see the octopus changing colors like a chameleon. It was captivating!
As we think about this ability to adapt to one’s surroundings, we can see Paul’s attempt in Sunday’s epistle to be “all things to all people” so that he might convince them of the importance of faith in Jesus Christ. Would this be perceived as “real” by others or is Paul just marketing himself as a means to an end?
We have a need to be authentic in today’s culture. If a pastor is judged to be fake in some form or fashion, he or she is quickly cast aside. I’ve heard evangelists tell pastors to explore hobbies or interests so that you have an opportunity to meet people outside your church. Some churches pay for country club fees in order to expose their pastor to others in this setting. The idea behind this is that the relationships formed on the golf course might translate into the salvation of the rest of those teeing it up. Unfortunately for me, I struggle to be a Christian on the golf course so rarely play!
But if I only engage in my hobbies in order to get in closer to you, it seems a bit contrived. Most people don’t see you as truly interested in them but only as another number in the heavenly tally. It appears disingenuous.
But for Paul, his real interest is your salvation in Jesus Christ. It supersedes anything else for him including his personal hobbies or interests. Paul’s hobby is salvation. Along with his main work and his leisure activity.
So for today, we might look at salvation not so much as the moment of personal epiphany but as the relationship we have with God through our lifetimes. So in this sense, meeting people where they are conveys the salvation that is more of a process than a moment.
As we see God’s grace pervading all of life, we can recognize the variety of ways that people can encounter it. And so for some in Paul’s day, it was discovered under the law. For others, it was realized outside the law. And for still others, it was portrayed even in their weakness. Paul became all things to all people in order to share the universal application of God’s grace.
This Sunday, I’ll continue to explore this idea in my sermon entitled, “What is our Common Ground?” We’ll look at God’s call for us to relate to one another in Christ. If you can’t join us in person, check us out online!
Check out Sam’s Blog here: http://precedinggrace.blogspot.com.