Thursday, March 18, 2010
All Things To All Men
One of our favorite verses to use in our evangelism methods is where Paul said that he “becomes all things to all men” so that he might “by all means save some (I Corinthians 9:22).” This is certainly a good idea if we keep it in its proper context and application.
For example, I remember a time in high school where I knew a kid that loved skateboarding. Being the chicken that I am, I was never a skateboarder. All he would talk about was skating, and I knew none of his lingo. But to help develop a relationship with him (he was new to our church and didn’t know many people), I brushed up on my skating lingo so I could ask if he had done any sick ollies lately (impressed?). This would be like Paul saying “to the skateboarder, I became a skateboarder.” This is effective and necessary.
But then there are the people that use this verse to justify doing sinful things in the name of evangelism. The first one that comes to mind is about drinking. Some people will go into the bars to evangelize, which is a great idea, but then they order a round for themselves. If any sanctified Christian dares to oppose them on this practice, they will proudly cite their anthem: I’m becoming all things to all men.
Let’s step back and survey the damage that is done here. These pub evangelists have just given every lost person a license to continue in their very sin! “If he believes in Jesus and does the same things I’m doing, I must be OK.”
The same point was recently made to me in trying to defend a movie that used profanity. Someone told me that the profanity in this movie is being all things to all men. With that logic the same damage is done as with the pub evangelist. If this is the new justification in evangelism, where will we draw the line: Will we become porn stars to reach porn stars? Will we become drug dealers to reach our clients? Come on! This is ridiculous. Let’s stop taking the Bible out of context in order to excuse our sin.
Paul’s quote in I Corinthians 9 is being dangerously misapplied. His original point had nothing to do with giving himself extra liberty, but was all about denying himself the liberty that he already had! Look at his examples. To the weak he became weak, and though he was free, he made himself a servant. It is not that he fed his sinful appetite, but that he denied himself to reach some. We know for a fact that Paul denied himself the right to eat certain meat (which he had the right to eat) in order to keep the opportunity to reach others (read the previous chapter).
Do you really want to reach somebody for Christ? Then find a way to reach one by denying yourself, not by compromising your standards or beliefs. When we compromise, no one is actually reached for Christ, so we miss our goal. We are constantly reaching people by confronting them with their need for change. How many are being reached by drinking, swearing Christians?
Let’s be all things to all men so that we can reach some.