Surrendering rights requires personal sacrifice. It means dying to self and what we might feel is due us and thinking of others first. It will be uncomfortable at times and will push us outside our comfort zones. But why would we do this? Why go to the effort and voluntarily surrender our rights when God has given us complete freedom in Christ? To win the lost.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
~1 Corinthians 9:19-22
Paul’s address here in 1 Corinthians 9 expounds on his reason for surrendering his rights. While he has every right to collect compensation for his work and is completely free to operate independently and separate from the culture around him, he surrendered those rights because of love. He refused to use his freedom and rights in order to win more people to Christ.
Instead of standing on his rights and arguing the reasons why he is free from all, Paul made himself a servant and met people where they were. He got to know and understand the culture, mindset, and values of those he ministered among so that he could relate and become a meaningful part of their world. As Paul said, he became all things to all people so that he could live with a clear conscience that he had done all in his power to win the lost to Christ.
But does that mean Paul compromised? Is that what becoming all things to all people means?
Some have argued this point and thus strongly oppose any infringement of personal rights. However, surrendering rights does not mean compromising. Quite the opposite actually! Compromise means that both parties are in some way right and that the one compromising will eventually agree to meet in the middle or accept the other person’s position. But that’s not what Paul did.
Paul did not compromise on his principles, but rather knew when holding fast to rights would do nothing to advance the gospel. He could relate to and connect with people from all walks of life and backgrounds. He could talk with Jews and meet them on their turf even though he was free from the Law and its demands and he could interact with Gentiles and those completely unfamiliar with the promises of God even though he himself was not without knowledge of the Holy One. For Paul, becoming all things to all people did not involve changing who he was or what he believed as a person, but how he was able to relate and interact with all different people.
This is a concept that we in America would do well to learn from. We often have a hard time relating to others. Rather than looking at people and considering how we can serve and reach them, we tend to feel entitled and want everyone to relate to us. But this is not how we can reach people with the gospel!
Paul makes it clear that the reason why he became all things to all people was so that he could win the lost. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to win all of them, but some would come to a saving knowledge of the truth. And I love how Paul states in verse twenty-three his heart and motivating purpose behind his actions:
“I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
~1 Corinthians 9:23
It was not from a sense of duty or moral obligation that Paul surrendered his rights to win the lost. No, he did it out of sincere love and a genuine desire to share the eternal riches of God with others. Paul’s heart beat for people and he wanted all to come to know the truth. Therefore, he was willing to lay down his rights, surrender his freedoms, and humble himself so that he could effectively win the lost. May we learn from Paul’s example and be willing to follow in his footsteps, laying down our lives out of genuine love for others and a passionate desire to win some to Christ!
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