Free to be a Slave
When I am with the Jews, I live like a Jew to win Jews. They are ruled by the Law of Moses, and I am not. But I live by the Law to win them. And when I am with people who are not ruled by the Law, I forget about the Law to win them. Of course, I never really forget about the law of God. In fact, I am ruled by the law of Christ. When I am with people whose faith is weak, I live as they do to win them. I do everything I can to win everyone I possibly can.
1 Corinthians 9:20-22
One of the privileges of being the father in a family is that you get to make the rules. Successful families are not democracies. In our family there were six children and two adults. If we had operated by the democratic process everything would have fallen apart in only a short time. I know you may be asking “what about your wife?” Well, I am of the very old school of people who believe that it is the father’s responsibility to be the head of the family. I know it is not “PC” but it worked for thousands of years so you will just have to humor me for just the short time I have remaining on this earth.
Now, back to the point. I remember my oldest son accusing me of breaking one of my own rules. I don’t remember which one it was. Oh, I remember which son, but I don’t remember which rule. I’m sure I broke most of them over the years. But it was important for my children to see me following the rules I set for them. Otherwise I would be accused of not “practicing what I preach.”
The apostle Paul says that he lived like the people to whom he preached. That means simply that he followed the rules that had been set up for that culture. Of course he did not participate in something immoral because the culture accepted it, but it does mean that he allowed himself to be constrained by rules that, except for the sake of those to whom he was preaching, would have no importance to Paul. 1 Corinthians 9 even says that Paul did this with people who had weak faith.
So how do you minister to people who have weak faith? The normal human way to address it would be to point out their weaknesses and tell them how wrong they are to believe such things. That approach is wonderful for hardening prejudices and cutting off fellowship and communication.
Paul’s, Spirit led, approach was to live like those people whose faith was weak so that he might win them. Here is a great mystery. Paul, who was very strong in faith could live like he was weak to win others to Jesus.
The bottom line is this: Even though as a child of God I do not have to live by the rules made by men, my love for the lost constrains me to submit myself to those rules that men may be saved.
As a follower of Jesus I must ask myself not what am I free to do, but rather what am I free to give up for the sake of those who do not yet know Him? It’s all a part of living like Jesus did!