Ivory Tower or Street Level?
Lord, if my spirit flags, strengthen it. If my trust wanes, restore it. If my focus gets blurry, sharpen it.
1 CORINTHIANS 9:19-27
Consider: "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell" (C.T. Studd, 1862-1931).
Paul exercised his freedom by choosing to meet his own needs as a professional tent-maker, rather than demanding his entitlement to a decent living provided by the Christians he served. He thus avoided the charge of exploiting his apostolic status for financial gain. (How sad today that many nonbelievers view Christian preachers as parasites because of the antics of a few high-profile, money-grabbing televangelists!) Conversely, Paul curtailed his freedom by enslaving himself to a principle that governed his approach to cross-cultural evangelism: becoming all things to all people in order to save some (22).
Was Paul a chameleon-like opportunist, changing message and method to suit his target audience in a contest to see who could win the most converts? Certainly, out of cultural sensitivity, he adapted his methods, but never at the expense of the unchanging Gospel message. Provided spiritual and moral truths were not at stake, he felt free (actually, compelled) to meet people where they were. We see in chapter 10, for example, how he could dine in the home of an idol worshiper but not participate in a pagan temple feast.
If Paul were alive among us today, how might he seek to reach the lost in a relevant and "all things to all people" way? Would he not inform himself of trends in popular culture? Would he not be interested in the latest sports results? Would he not learn at least a few words of the language spoken by the immigrants down the road? Would he not flee from splendid isolation in some ivory tower in order to engage with the lost on the streets and in their workplaces and homes? Think about it. Then ask yourself, What about me?
What motivated Jesus to mix with "tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:34)? Should we copy his approach, or is it too dangerous?
Gracious Lord, I need a fresh love and concern for those who are apart from You. Grant my desire and show me opportunities and ways to reach others for You.