In this verse, the Pharisees were focusing and getting picky on the LITTLE things which prevented them from dealing with the BIGGER issues that were truly important (for them, they were missing mercy and faithfulness amidst the justice - verse 23).
I was reading this verse and found it interesting. I used to laugh when I would read about the Pharisees because they were just...always there...like ALL the time, as in bothering Jesus. I don't mean it was "HA-HA-Hilaaaariously-funny" but funny in the sense that they would go OUT of their way JUST to catch Jesus doing something or saying something wrong so they could prove that He wasn't who He said He was.
As we have the different types Christianity (i.e. Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, etc.), we know that some of the churches separated over "petty" things, and others separated over legitimate reasons (e.g. about the Holy Spirit, or what Communion really entailed, etc.), and that led to many many denominations.
We see that the Pharisees were so passionate about arguing over the little stuff and not the big stuff which truly matters. I found this interesting as I tied this with Paul's "method" of evangelism where he chose not to focus on arguing over the "little" stuff for the sake of empty arguments. Instead, Paul shifted his focus and became all things to all people in order to win them for the Gospel, i.e. The Bigger Stuff :)
Here's what I mean by that...
When I read this verse I thought about a girl who started speaking my language and I thought she was Shona. She then started speaking Swahili and people thought she was from Kenya. She then went among Nigerians and they thought she was from Nigeria.
What's happening! Schizophrenia!?!
No. Gifted my dear. She's gifted.
It was just her being herself and using the gift she was given in order to be all things to all people. She could relate even better with people when she was "adapting" to the customs/cultures. She didn't FOCUS on the little things and say: "well, you don't speak our language so you can't join our group of friends" and not talk to that person. She adapted and used her gift of languages so she could "fit" in, or rather help others fit in. It was not in vain or to show off, it was her gift. Her gift enabled her to talk to others.
She inspired me.
What a fascinating phenomena, I'd read 1 Corinthians 9:19 before, but seeing it in practice totally made sense, I just HAD to dig more, dig deeper.
This is what I got about being all things to all people for evangelizing:
1. Stay in the place you're gifted in. We are all different, but we're all gifted for a reason. If I attempted to do this language thing, you'd be seeing me on the "WANTED" list because I'd be disturbing the peace. Now, for me, it's more about music, writing, speaking, etc. For the music, there are times when I just want to sing a song that I want and in the style I want, but I've realized in my growth to prayerfully consider the songs I sing. I know that if I sing my favorite jam and what's ministering to me right now, it might not be the one that will minister to the audience. There will be many ways to choose what kind of songs to sing, such as seeing what people in that area respond to the most, the things they are dealing with and want to hear, and most importantly just what God wants me to sing. Even if He says sing a more upbeat, slow or reggae beat or pop, gospel, hymns, I can alter that and make my music versatile whilst STILL being myself and responding to the call of ministering to that particular audience. There are times when I want to write a song and I just say "Lord, show me what your people want to hear, write this song through me" and I end up writing a song totally out of what I would've written by myself. At first I said, "but..this is not the style I sing.." but I realized that God can use this in a tremendous way to reach the lost if we adhere to His instructions. It's not like I'm changing myself or denying the gift, but it's actually just submitting to the Gift-Giver. I'm still learning about this and I'm finding it quite fascinating (as it goes back to the issue of learning to surrender and making it about HIM and not me).
2. Be willing to go out side your comfort zone. Ok this sounds sooo contradictory from the first point about staying where you are gifted eh? haha. Well, what I mean is, if you're not used to sitting on the floor and you head to Japan and they sit on the floor in their church, you gotta do it. That would be outside your comfort zone. You can't go to Ikea, buy a chair, and bring it to the Japanese service. That would be rude and dishonorable. Don't focus on the petty stuff, we can survive a one hour church service, or meeting sitting on the floor.
3. Assess: Ask yourself "Is what I'm emphasizing or fussing about with this person REALLY worth it?" If it is, then pray, ask for wisdom, and stand strong about it. If it isn't, let it go, ask God to give you a heart to understand it and to move on. When we are trying to reach the lost, some matters are just due to a difference in opinion or upbringing and we can't afford to bring up every little detail we disagree with (Proverbs 17:14 says "Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out").
4. It "softens" the mood. Have you ever been nervous and someone puts on that smooth music to groove to, and you're toning down, relaxing, and then they offer you some tea, and your favorite dessert in that specific order? (Ya okay, me neither...) BUT, my point is, when someone takes steps to make you feel "at ease" it opens the door to communicate. DISCLAIMER: Please don't take it as a sign to take someone on a date because you want to "ease" them into hearing the Gospel, deceit won't work. I'm talking about practical steps here...don't take this as something to lead someone on, to make them think you like them, or that you are something you're not. Just be yourself; at the end of the day it will be the Holy Spirit guiding you.
Remember that we cannot isolate Paul's words from the rest of the Bible. We have to always put what he says and measure it according to the rest of Scripture. I know some of you are probably thinking: "oh no, I thought I could now *insert activity*", no, Paul never disobeyed the Word in order to be "all things to all people". He didn't mean "try drugs to reach drug addicts or take shots to reach alcoholics" or anything that is contrary to the Word. He also didn't mean to act one way with one person and then one way with another (being fake). He meant "be yourself", "be genuine". Usually you wouldn't go around telling everyone you meet about how you struggle in an area, but when you do meet someone who has struggled in that area, you'd most likely reveal to them that you also dealt with that. In other words, you'd reveal other areas of your true life in order to reach that person.
So I started off with this verse: Matthew 23:24 "you blind guides! you strain out a gnat (a tiny two-winged fly) but swallow a camel"
The Pharisees were so passionate about arguing over the little stuff and not the big stuff that truly mattered. I tied this with Paul's "method" of evangelism where he chose not to focus on the "little" stuff for the sake of arguing, and instead, became all things to all people in order to win them for the Gospel, i.e. The Bigger Stuff :)
It takes time to start learning this, but I encourage us to pray, and to be led so we can reach as many people for the sake of the Gospel! Amen!
Once again, keep the faith, and love like you've never loved before.
With love always,
FAITH by Promises