All Things to All People

We each come to the church with our own perspective. We have subjects that we are interested in, concerns that worry us, and areas that give us joy and happiness. But sometimes we forget that those around us have different concerns and viewpoints. Have you ever marveled at how many different people, perspectives, and viewpoints there are in the church?

Whenever you sit in the pew, you’re surrounded by folks with markedly different experiences. One person is lonely, and comes to church for the personal contact with others. Another person is celebrating because they have finally achieved a goal that they have been working toward for decades. One person struggles with an addiction that they don’t feel they’re able to share with anyone. Another person is a servant who works with a joyful heart, truly desiring to do whatever is best for the church community.  Someone else is so anxious about the congregation’s future that whenever they’re in the church building they spend the entire time trying to count the number of people present. One person is concerned that the preaching is dangerously watered down, while another person is worried that the preaching is too difficult and is driving people away. A young family has the joy and wonder of a baby’s new life; in the pew beside them, an aging adult is in complete and total denial that their life will soon end. One person idolizes the minister as the very mouthpiece of God; another person gives the minister jaded lip service, since the minister “isn’t really one of us” and will just be gone in a few years anyway. Another person is wracked with uncertainty in their faith, while another person has seldom allowed any doubt to enter their mind.

It is so hard for me to keep all of those different perspectives in mind, and to hold in my head the full range of human life. I haven’t shared each person’s experiences, and I don’t understand fully each person’s perspective; in fact some of their concerns couldn’t be less interesting or important to me personally. But I know that each person’s concerns are important to them. Even if I don’t understand their joy or appreciate their sorrow, those feelings are real. And because of that, it’s important for me to try to share in those experiences as much as I’m able, and to try to share a little of God’s peace in each person’s particular situation. I think this is what Paul was saying when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win 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 win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

“I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” To try to rise above our own circumstances and see things from someone else’s perspective is what the gospel calls us to. And though it may be challenging, when we do so we share in the gospel’s blessings. Take a moment to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the diversity found in our church, and pray that God would open you heart to care for and understand the situation of each person in it.

—Andrew Garnett

Kate Weaver2nd 30Comment