“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
Whether it is in politics, the professional world, a party, or a pew, we face potential conflict every day in our polarized society. As discussions get more heated and social media is deluged with strong opinions and relationships are splintering we need to find common ground rather than take sides. It’s good to find common ground with people. When we find common ground and we see things from other people’s perspectives, we can have a voice in their lives, we can have an influence.
Paul is writing in 1 Corinthians 9 in defense of his ministry. There is a group of people who have criticized or misrepresented him in his absence, and Paul is explaining his actions and motives. He explains some motives that we can adopt in our own lives. Things that will allow us to reflect Jesus Christ to others. One of those things is becoming all things to all people. It starts in our families and close relationships but carries into every part of our lives. By seeking common ground with people—shared interests, even if they require effort on our part—we have an opportunity to make investments for eternity.
If we don’t find common ground then we will not build connections. When we become flexible and figure out the best way to meet people where they are, we can build relationships. When we listen to them and respect their traditions and passions we can build common ground. Trained missionaries know that, before they can reach a cultural group, they must understand the particulars of that culture. The same is true for every believer, even if we never leave our own city.
The result is a blessing in our lives. Our relationships become richer. That friend you couldn’t imagine coming to Christ might listen and accept the truth you share with them. There is joy when we leave our comfort zone to accomplish something that matters in this life. That is what we are all about as a church. Not to stand outside the world and shout the gospel at it, but to go into the world and express it through our actions and commitment to reflect the love of God. To share life with people, so that we can also share something eternal.
It all begins with the relationships directly in front of you.
- How do we find common ground with others in a conversation?
- To what extent do you invest the necessary time and energy to make meaningful connections with others? What stands in the way? What choices are you making?