If you read any self help article online today entitled “5 things you need to stop doing to be happier” or “7 habits to kick in 2017” or “I stopped doing these 10 things and became so much happier!” one of the most common items I read is to stop spending time with people that drain you. Remove relationships from your life that seem to bring you down. Stop spending time with those people who are just hard to be around!
Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.
However, there will always be those who claim to be followers of Christ that seek to divide. There will always be those who seek to manipulate, control, and advance their own agenda to maintain power. The story of Easter is incomplete without remembering that most of God’s people blindly followed the religious leaders of the day to the point of becoming an angry mob crying out for the death of the very Messiah they had been waiting for.
At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!
There will be days where we do a better job of keeping our eyes fixed firmly on him, and on those days we will provide a powerful example for others. And there will be some days where we need to desperately look around for the “Paul” in our lives that is facing challenges with bravery from who we can borrow strength. That is the power of community.
As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?
The problem with the concepts of evangelism, discipleship, and building genuine relationships, is we want them all to look like a single scene in a movie. We want the type of evangelism where someone goes from not believing in God all the way over to giving his or her life over to Christ in the midst of a 5-minute conversation where the gospel is shared. We want the scene to be set perfectly, the mood to be right, and the transformation to be obvious and complete! Then we immediately discount ourselves as not having the ability to pull that off.
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 like 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. 1 Corinthians 9:19-22
To be clear, I am not arguing for or against either of these positions. I am merely stating that we have an interesting way, as a church, of being incredibly selective of which issues we decide truly outrage us and what issues we will throw our collective political weight behind. I would challenge anyone to go back and read the entire book of Matthew, every single word Jesus spoke while on earth, and see if you come to the conclusion that we are fighting the right cultural fights at this moment in time. Are our collective actions bringing others to Christ or pushing them away?