2001-03-22 - Meeting People
1 Cor 9:19-23 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 to To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (NAS)
Have you ever tried to talk to someone who has never had any serious contact with the Bible about a theophany or about substitutionary death? Try to discuss David's statement where he esteems his ancestor (who will be Jesus) higher than himself with someone who doesn't understand the Jewish culture well enough to know why that is so unusual? Even if they are trying to be polite, their eyes will take on that distant stare of someone who is completely lost and quite likely uninterested in the topic. It is not unlike taking a 10-year old and expecting him to write machine language code for a new operating system. The person you are trying to talk with is likely not interested, and even if he is, he is very likely intimidated.
Paul makes a point here of meeting people both socially and intellectually where they are. He was a studied Doctor of the Law. But to a fisherman, or a Greek what would it mean? When Paul is brought before Festus, Festus claims that Paul is "mad with learning". He was impressed with Paul's arguments, but he simply could not allow himself to believe that a man had risen from the dead. However, Paul met Festus where he could understand Paul. When Paul spoke to the sailors as they approached Malta, he encouraged them to eat and broke and thanked God for the meal. When the soldiers that kept the prisoners planned to kill them to prevent any from escaping, they listened to Paul when he told them that the Lord had promised that no one onboard the ship would be lost. He spoke simply of his Lord to them throughout the journey. Bit by bit, he earned their confidence and respect, so much so that the Centurion never gave the order to slay the prisoners, which was arguably the logical thing to do.
If God is a natural part of our daily lives, does it make sense to present Him in an unnatural fashion? Is there a time when you need to grab someone by the shoulders and look him straight in the eye and confront him with the reality of Jesus Christ in the current situation? Yes, of course. But day to day Jesus Christ should simply be woven into the fabric of our lives. Wide-eyed claims and presentations do not meet people where they are comfortable. Presenting Christ as a natural part of your life makes Him real to people without discrediting your faith. Will there be people who are offended in this as much as by arm waving and shouting? Yes, but both Paul and Peter made the statement that He would be a stumbling stone or a rock of offense to those who refuse to live by faith.
Rom 9:32-33 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." (NAS)
But Jesus is also called the chief cornerstone. He is the first stone laid in the foundation. This means the building of living stones, which is His church, should be aligned off of that first stone. Many of Jesus' miracles were performed quietly; the healing of the leper, Jarius' daughter, the man waiting for the angel to stir the waters at one of the temple pools were all done with very few, if any witnesses. Jesus did rail at the Pharisees and the Money-changers, but only when there was nothing left to do. This was the course of action when they had seen the public miracles and continued to refuse to see that Jesus was Who He claimed to be. We will not find ourselves in this situation everyday.
Lord Jesus - help us to live so that You are evident in our lives without the audaciousness and fanfare that drives people away. Wear away the unbelief of those around us like water in a river over a stone, wearing their arguments down with unrelenting, consistent patience - the same patience You showed us. Amen.
Grace & Peace,