Americans love to watch people take on a challenge. Whether it’s a mental challenge like quiz game shows or a physical challenge like sports or the Olympics, we love a good challenge and we love when people rise to the challenge and succeed. Paul makes a simple statement in the final verses of chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians that should be a challenge Christians rise to meet.
“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.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
Paul states that he does everything to spread the Good News. Can you say the same thing? This writer cannot. I’m not seeking out company with the neighbors I rarely see in order to find common ground so that I can bring the gospel to them. I’m not engaging people in the check out line and looking for an opening to share the Good News. I don’t pull my car over and get out and talk with the man in dirty clothes holding the cardboard sign. There’s plenty more I could be doing—and once we realize that truth, we can address how.
How can we bring the gospel to people? How can we engage with people we know or have just met? Paul gives us the answer when he says he tries to find common ground with everyone. Can you think of a person or a group of people you assume you have zero commonalities with? Are there hurdles in your way of connecting with certain people? With Paul’s example here, we shouldn’t allow politics, sexual orientation, gender, race, unfamiliarity—nothing should get in the way of sharing the Good News with people. If something is getting in the way, make sure you are not judging or condemning them. If a fellow Christian is sinning, then it is our duty to confront that person in love, but for the lost person we are simply called to love, not to judge and condemn.
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
Paul compares his work of sharing the gospel to that of running a race or an athlete training.
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Paul has a clear purpose: to do everything he can to share the Good News with everyone, and he does so by finding common ground with everyone. Let’s use Paul’s example as a challenge for our own lives. Let’s try to find common ground with everyone we meet and let’s do everything we can to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.