“Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.”– 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Walking through to the far side of the village of Mchangani, Kome Island, I came upon a group of fishermen on the beach, resting under a tree after a long night’s work. After striking up a conversation about the beauty of the lake and of country of Tanzania, I shared my testimony and the gospel message with these rough men. As they were considering the message before them of salvation offered through Jesus Christ, one man broke the contemplative silence with a strange question. “What do you think of our city,” the man said very directly. My interpreter relayed what I would later find out was, by all accounts, a loaded and probing question, and every eye in the group snapped over to see to my response and body language. You see, to these men, this question struck at their central barrier to accepting this message. Who is this guy that’s so foreign? How does he see us? How does he judge our culture? Can he possibly be anything like us?
God has prepared his children to hear this question and respond in love because of his word. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to endure anything rather than placing an obstacle in the way of the gospel. To those that are free, they become as a servant. To the Jew, as a Jew. To those under or outside the law, as the same. To the weak, as weak. To the American, as an American. To the Tanzanian, as a Tanzanian. To the Kome Islander, by the grace of God and in our feeble attempts, as a Kome Islander.
We are charged and equipped to go to all people, by all means, all for the sake of winning some for the gospel. Paul taught us to count everything as lossbecause of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:8). By God’s grace we leave behind every barrier to fellowship until the gospel message itself remains. We make ourselves low, so that our Savior might be lifted high.
So what of those fishermen by the lake and their halting question? Only the love of Jesus can take a man through a village full of prostitution and witchcraft and drunkenness and squalor and cast a smile across his face upon reaching the far side. “I don’t know much about this place, but I do know that I’ve been welcomed and humbled by your open hand of fellowship. I offer you the same from Jesus and the one who loves you more than you can imagine.” 11 fishermen and one woman prayed to repent of their sins and follow Jesus that day under the tree on the beach.
God has prepared us for his mission because he has readied those who would hear his voice. Our job, then, is to remove anything—and count it as loss—that remains an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. What would you do for the sake of the gospel?
– Mitch Fossum