Living out a Christian life in this world is, I think, one of the most difficult balancing acts a human being can have. On one hand, as a child of God you have complete freedom in Christ. You are no longer a slave to sin; Christ has set you free from that bondage. Yet, on the other hand, the mission of Christ demands that your life is not your own. Oftentimes this can create quite a tension in our life. We know that we have complete freedom, and yet we find that, like Christ, our constant serving of those around us can make us feel like a slave. Paul talks about this tension when he writes to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became 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 people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Paul says that he makes himself a slave to everyone for one purpose: to win as many as possible. This is what is required of us as Christians called to demonstrate the care and character of Christ to those around us: we become a slave to everyone so that we might win as many as possible. Let me highlight this tension by noting the different views that people can have of their pastor.
One of the most difficult aspects about being a pastor to me is dealing with the wide variety of interpretations that a person can have of my position. One person can view my job one way and the person right beside them can view my job in a completely different light altogether. For example, some view the pastor as a CEO; he is a decision-maker where the buck stops. He needs to be assertive and authoritative. Others view the pastor as a modest and humble man, and any hint of being authoritative is a negative. Some view him primarily as a teacher. As long as the doctrine is sound and the message relatable, then he is a good pastor. Some view the pastor as one who is always in his office studying and praying. Others feel that he should rarely be in his office because his work is amongst the people. Some feel that his attire should be professional, and others feel just as strongly that he should be casual, so as not to push others away with his formality. And the list goes on.
Much like the view people have of their pastor, so it can be with the differing views people can have about how a Christians is supposed to look and act. To live in this world as a Christian can certainly be stressful, simply due to the demands of our mission. In our human minds, we don’t want to be all things to all men. It hurts. It is painful. It is uncomfortable. In a very real sense we can become subject to the fluid, subjective views of others around us. And yet, this is exactly what God calls us to do. Paul could walk up to a group of Jews and converse with them about Christ in their context, and then to a group of people who know nothing of Jesus and converse with them about Christ in their context. To live as Christ to those around us may require that, like a chameleon, we adapt to the people God has placed in our lives each moment of every day.
In some contexts, Christ may best be shown simply by abstaining from crude conversations. At times it may be the kindness of the Lord to those in need that shines His light brightest. Other times, it may simply be spending time with someone and listening to them. And, in other instances, it may be doing something that you would rather not do at all for someone, but that you know would clearly demonstrate to them the care and character of Christ. The common denominator is this: it requires involvement in the lives of others. Christ was constantly meeting the needs of those around him, and to do this he had to know what their needs were. So it is with us. Though we have complete freedom in Christ, the mission of Christ demands that we become involved in the lives of those around us and demonstrate Christ to them in a way that is meaningful to them and meets some need in their life.
Pray that the Lord would show you how you can demonstrate His love and care to those around you in a way that impacts their life for Christ.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.