“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 9:22-23
In chapter nine, we see Paul outline how he goes about ministry with people:
- He finds common ground. This goes above and beyond scrounging up a few stats about whatever sports team the other person enjoys. He aligns his life with their life. “Doing everything he can to save them.” I had a friend who felt called to the impoverished neighborhood near his suburban home. His kids were coming home from school talking about his poor classmates who didn’t have lunch or clean clothes. In a drastic turn of events, he moved his family into that neighborhood, became friends with the families of his child’s classmates, started a community garden and let his home be a revolving door for dinners, mentorship and joy. Knowing he didn’t have common ground with that social class at the time, he created common ground at the cost of his own comfort and status.
- He eliminates pride. God hates pride. (Proverbs 16:5, Romans 12:16, 1 Timothy 6:4, a few of my favorites.) Paul has a lot of reasons to boast, but insists on remaining humble. Whenever my pride rears its head, or I’m tempted to jump in on a topic I think I know more about, or I start to judge people who Just Don’t Get It, I’m reminded of Christ’s humility. No one has ever, in the history of creation, wanted to be a part of something after a pride-soaked speech or shamed-based scold. For example, no, I don’t want to join your fitness program or buy protein shakes for you after you tell me how much better you are or how horrible I am for mistreating my body. Pride divides, while humility disarms differences and endears. The gospel should make all people feel accepted.
- Uses opportunities to share the gospel. Paul is BOLD when it comes to sharing. I often err on the side of “loving on people” and hoping my actions will, all by themselves, point people back to God. There is definitely some truth to that, and the Bible confirms that the Spirit can convict people through actions rather than words. But, living a godly lifestyle should not replace sitting down with someone and telling them God’s story (at the appropriate time/space). Excuse me while I share my own apologetics, but I tend to think we skip this part. I was convinced, for years, that a coworker of mine would eventually one day announce to me that she couldn’t deny how different my life was than hers and ask to be a part of Christianity. Instead, one day she was crunching on an apple across the break room table from me and casually asked “I can’t remember, are you Mormon? Or what?” Not quite the Focus on the Family moment I had been preparing for, BUT, it was a wake-up call (and an opportunity to share, actually). Obviously, I don’t extend my hand and a memorized personal testimony to every person I meet, but I do try to act more brave and intentional when the opportunities present themselves to people I’m in relationship with. And they will. I do, in fact, have a friend whose family sat her down after months of her conversion to Christianity and asked her “how do we get what you have?” So, of course it’s possible, but it’s not an excuse to hide from opportunities.
Is there someone God has put in front of you to reach? How can you find common ground with them? What does it look like for you to extend the gospel to them?