Being All Things to All Men
by Lynette Woods
Scripture references from The Amplified Bible
To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and overscrupulous. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means, at all costs and in any and every way, save some. 1 Cor 9:22
Many of the things we hold strong opinions about are non-issues; they are not essential to our joint Life in Christ! There ARE indeed times when we must speak out and be firm about issues as the Holy Spirit prompts us to and this will often cause others to be upset or stumble, but there is no excuse for speaking out of the flesh (from pride) and thus causing brothers or sisters to stumble because of our opinions. Although we must never compromise our Foundation (Who is Christ), other non-essential, doctrinal issues should be compromised on; this is part of adapting ourselves to one another, out of our love for Christ and each other.
Paul wrote four chapters dealing with eating or not eating certain foods (1 Corinthians 8-11) and the conclusion he came to was that all things are permissible (we have freedom in Christ), but not all things are profitable (or loving to others), and not to use our freedom in Christ to cause others to stumble; because that would be unloving. "All things are legitmate (permissible, and we are free to do anything we please), but not all things are helpful, profitable and wholesome. All things are legitmate, but not all things are constructive to character and edifying to spiritual life. Let no one then seek his own good and advantage and profit, but rather each one of the other, let him seek the welfare of his neighbor." 1 Corinthians 10:23,24
As a result he tried to be 'all things to all men', eating food offered to idols was a stumbling block to some and not others - just as certain doctrinal issues are stumbling blocks to some of us and not others (1 Corinthians 9:22, 10:31-33). He wrote: "Be careful that this power of choice, this permission to do as you please which is yours, does not somehow become a hindrance and cause of stumbling to the weak or overscrupulous." 1 Corinthians 8:9 Sometimes I can get so caught up in the passion of the truth that I so clearly see that I can run with it in the flesh to try to help others see it rather than waiting on my Life for His Way. God's Truth must be given in His Life and Way if I am giving out Christ - He IS the Truth, Life and Way. And it also follows that His Truth must be received in His Life and Way in my life in order for it to bring forth fruit! Truth on its own, as just head knowledge, does not bring Life; the letter kills. Truth on its own can bring bondage and death but Truth given as Christ Himself in His Way and in His Life brings freedom and reality in our experience of Christ AS Truth!
When we want to argue or prove a point, is it from pride and self-righteousness on our part rather than loving concern for our brother or sister? Do we truly see the whole picture or do we see only in part? Are we viewing things through God's eyes or through our own mindsets and prejudices? It is the experience of so many of us that we really do see through a glass darkly, Hannah Hurnard has expressed it well in this excerpt from her book "Hinds Feet in High Places" (capitals are in the original):
"Even these High Places were not the highest of all. Others towered above them into the sky, where mortal eye could no longer follow them, and where only those who have finished their pilgrim life on earth are able to go. Grace and Glory and her friends were on the lowest, the 'beginners slopes' in the Kingdom of Love, and these were the parts which they were to explore and enjoy at this time. From these slopes, too, they were able to look down on the valleys below, and from that new view-point, gain an understanding of many things which had been puzzling and mysterious to them before. From beneath they had not been seen clearly, and even then only a small part had been visible.
"The first thing, however, which they realised up there on the slopes of the Kingdom of Love was HOW MUCH MORE THERE WOULD BE TO SEE AND LEARN AND UNDERSTAND when the King took them HIGHER on future occasions. The glorious view which they now enjoyed was but small in comparison with all that lay beyond, and would be visible only from yet higher places above. It was now perfectly evident to them that there must be ranges upon ranges of which they had never dreamt while they were still down in the narrow valleys with their extraordinarily limited views. Sometimes, as she looked on the glorious panorama visible from these lowest slopes in the Kingdom of Love, she found herself blushing as she remembered some of the dogmatic statements which she and others had made in the depths of the valley about the High Places and the ranges of Truth. They had been able to see so little and were so unconscious of what lay beyond and above. If that had been the case while down in the Valley, how much more clearly, she now realised, that even up on those wonderful slopes she was only looking out on a tiny corner of the whole."
May our Father teach us to exercise much grace with one another - abundantly we have received His grace, may we also abundantly give it! May we learn to lay down our lives (and points of view!) for our brothers and sisters, particularly if our opinion has the potential of causing another to stumble or to be upset needlessly... "As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him, but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions. One man's faith permits him to believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one limits his eating to vegetables. Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize or pass judgment on him who eats; for God has accepted and welcomed him. But if your brother is being pained or his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat, then YOU ARE NO LONGER WALKING IN LOVE. Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died! So let us then definitely aim for and eagerly pursue what makes for harmony and for mutual upbuilding of one another. You must not, for the sake of food, undo and break down and destroy the work of God! We who are strong in our convictions and of robust faith ought to bear with the failings and the frailties and the tender scruples of the weak; we ought to help carry the doubts and qualms of others, and not to please ourselves." Romans 14:1-3,15, 19,20, 15:1.
Even though Paul adapted himself to others, it did not mean that he took on board their scruples but simply that he was acting in love and grace toward that person: "For why should another man's scruples apply to me and my liberty of action be determined by his conscience? So then, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the honor and glory of God. Do not let yourselves be hindrances by giving an offense to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the ekklesia of God; just as I myself strive to please, to accommodate myself to the opinions, desires and interests of others, adapting myself to all men in everything I do, not aiming at or considering my own profit and advantage, but that of the many in order that they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:29,31-33
The principle is the principle of the Cross - death in order to bring Life. There is only One Who can truly be ALL things to any man or woman and in allowing ourselves to be decreased, His Life is increased and brought forth. We are weakness, He is Strength. We are increasingly diminished and brought to nothing, He is increasingly enlarged and becomes Everything and All!
Who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim recompense? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. All things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him and all things center in and end in Him. To Him be glory forever! Romans 11:34-36