Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10: 32, 33

 

The world that Paul traveled and lived in was multi-cultural. There were people from many nationalities present, and he crossed paths with various practices of religion along the way. Paul was raised as a righteous, practicing Jew, and his training as a rabbi just reinforced his caution and concerns about the risk of being contaminated by the sinful ways and practices of everyone who was outside of his religion. So, his thinking about how followers of God are called by Christ to live in close contact and interaction with people without regard to what they believe represented radical transformation at the very core of who Paul was.

 

Paul is not telling us that we need to agree with everything that others may believe, and he is not suggesting that we should engage in all of the practices of their religion. What he is saying is that God had revealed to him that rigid separation was wrong. God wants His people to Know and to understand our neighbors, and He desires for us to have faith in Him to the degree that we can embrace strangers without fear. These are the things that God desires for His children to accept as normal in our daily lives. This is the way that Jesus lived, and loving others is what His Spirit calls upon our hearts to pursue.

 

We cannot know someone who we have not met. We are not able to understand the life story of a person who we hold at arm’s length, and they will never hear our recitation of how Christ has transformed us. Yes, there is evil in this world, but it is almost never present in our neighbors or even in the newcomer to our town. When we make broad and sweeping statements about others and about who they are or the intent of their religions, we are placing barriers between ourselves that inhibit relationship. Christ wants us to enter into those relationships, to hear the hearts of people, and to allow Him the opportunity to speak salvation through our love.

Advertisements