March 10, 2014

All Things to All Women

She gave up driving. Her grown children are in another country. She is learning the native language. The radio station has no music. She eats sheep's cheese. Even when it is 100 degrees outside, she wears head-to-toe black polyester.  Some women in her area can't read. She found an apartment with two living rooms...one for women, one for men. If someone knocks, she puts on her head covering before she comes to the door. Her post office is not reliable. She traded a rural retreat for a high rise in the city. She can't jog in the park.

Who is this woman? She is an American who happily resides in the country where her husband has a job.

Why does she willingly live this way? She loves the local people and wants to interact with the culture as much as possible.  She loves God and her husband. Because she wants to show forth Christ, she makes a sacrifice.

When God brings us to an area where people dress, act, look, think and eat differently than we do, we might seem out of place like a bright orange lawn chair in a white snowdrift. But, God has put us right where he wants us. We might complain like a drenched Private Benjamin who, when forced by the Army to march in the rain, said, "I wanna wear my sandals. I wanna go out to lunch. I wanna be normal again." But, God has higher goals for us than our own normal comfort levels.

Motivated by God's love for us, we can sacrifice some of our freedoms in order to minister more effectively in love toward others. "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them...I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some." (I Corinthians 9:19, 22b)

In a sermon on this passage, John Piper encouraged the listeners to "adapt as much as you can in non-sinful ways." He added, "In freedom, for love's sake, you try to overcome unnecessary, alienating differences that cut you off from unbelievers." This sort of loving adaptation can be directed toward believers, as well.

What lifestyle changes are we willing to make in order to "win/save" others around us? Do we need to stop buying Brooks Brothers clothes when we're called to a church with Bargain Basement style? Should we learn more about aeronautics or agriculture in order to appreciate how the congregation earns its living? Could we make more of the locally popular spinach smoothies so we can drink less sugary sodas? "By all means." We should use all the means we have to show forth Christ wherever we find ourselves. It is worth the sacrifice.

You might also like Fitting in While Pleasing God.

5 comments:

  1. Another very well thought out post--thank you! We, as a family, moved from an "appearance is everything" place to a "bargain basement" mindset. While initially somewhat difficult, we are learning to live for something more than the here-and-now in order to win those around us. I do still enjoy a good coffee shop drink, symphony concert and a stroll down Michigan Avenue, but these are blessings and no longer expectations. :)

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  2. Absolutely right! To find common ground in order to reach out to other even when this means we deny ourselves (Getting us out of our comfort zone)..The person you are mentioning here, has been a huge blessing in my life because of this, precisely.

    Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

    However, sometimes there is a cultural issue. Where in the passage can anyone find the phrase becoming Greek to the Greeks? Can Christians Eat Food presented to Idols? Paul understood pagan culture quite well. Corinth was one of the most advanced cities in ancient Greece. The predominant culture was pagan though there was a small community composed of the exiled Jews from Rome. Paul alluded to this cultural aspect in 8:7 “Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.” The word “accustomed” indicates that it became a habitual cultural practice.

    Paul concludes his discourse with these words: “Everything is permissible” — but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” — but not everything is constructive.” 10:23. . “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” (8:13).

    As a foreigner Christian, and a traveler to another Countries and living in them for months though out my Christian life since I was 17, I would say: Yes, it is worth the sacrifice!..Just remember to keep your sanctification (Do not compromise your convictions) and always give glory to God first and over any type of culture.

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    1. Miss Luz, You are right to point out that we need to guard our hearts in all of this. The sermon I linked to says it better than I can. Being in the world and not of the world is a lifetime endeavor.

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  3. I think this becomes complicated when the norms in your place are less "virtuous" than thrift store clothes and spinach smoothies. It is hard to know how to be all things among those who genuinely value a beautifully decorated home or well-dressed children. What outward things should we adopt for the sake of the gospel?

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    1. In reading this, my thoughts first went to praying for His wisdom (James 1:5). Every situation is an opportunity for our growth and maturity, isn't it? I don't believe it's wrong to fit in in order to further the Gospel as long as our fitting in doesn't take on a more important role in our lives than it should, and it doesn't include a sinful heart attitude or behavior. Where you minister (isn't it down South?) the things you mention are deeply ingrained the people as a whole....I know as I lived in it (Memphis, TN). A house as well as children's wardrobes can easily become idols. Both have at times been idols in my life, and the pressure you face to fit in is unreal. I'm a pastor's wife dealing something completely different now--an extremely thrifty mindset among our people. (I believe you wrote an article on Thrift and Pride once, didn't you?) On of my more common prayers is for wisdom in this very area.

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