1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might gain all the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to gain Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might gain those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not outside God’s law but am within Christ’s law) so that I might gain those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I might become a partner in it.
Reflection One summer, on a local housing estate in the north-west of Ireland, I found myself playing Gaelic football with a bunch of kids and some courageous members of my evangelism team. The children had sat on the tarpaulin so well during the chorus-singing, Bible lesson, and quiz that we gave them free choice for what we should play next.
I’d never played Gaelic football before (I’m not even sure we came at all close to playing it that day either). My non-Nationalist upbringing in Northern Ireland didn’t really have any room for ‘Gaelic’ things. Within my community, there was a not-always-tacit understanding that to engage with Irish culture was to be almost complicit with the IRA, bombs and murder.
And yet, Paul’s message to the church in Corinth reminds me that Gospel work happens wherever I meet with people, make an effort to understand them, and walk with them. How often do my respectabilities and preferences get in the way of getting alongside someone who is crying out for compassion or friendship?
The Gospel writers highlight how Jesus would dine in the company of the religious elite, tax abusers and prostitutes. When he had a place at the table, he was able to get to know them, challenge them and care for them.
We’re aware of the injustices manifested throughout the delivery of the World Cup. We might be tempted to have nothing to do with it, lest we be seen as complicit. And yet, a Christian presence, in stadiums, pubs and ‘fanzone’ viewing areas, can change the atmosphere and demonstrate the love of Jesus, because that is what Christians tend to do.
Can I become all things to all people when I hardly have time or energy to be one thing for myself? Consider today what ‘tables’ you already have a place at. Are they places where you can demonstrate Jesus’ values? What arenas might be open to you if you sit with someone you once considered an outsider?
Prayer Partnering God, strengthen me today as I walk with others. Speaking God, be my voice as I challenge injustice. Celebrating God, dance with us as we cheer on others. Uplifting God, sustain us through injustice and make us partners in your gospel. Amen
Roo Stewart is Programme Support Officer for URC Church & Society and a member of the Joint Public Issues Team.