I’d like to begin this devotional with a disclaimer: 1st Corinthians 9:19-23 is Paul’s unique approach to reaching people for the Gospel. We have the freedom in Christ to follow his example, and Paul calls us to a mindset few of us operate under on a daily basis; however, what he proposes is something, in my opinion, not all of us can or should do. This mindset requires a vibrant interaction with God’s Spirit and (as Paul even says) a very disciplined life; it will call for subjective decisions from each person as God moves in their hearts. Please keep this in mind as you continue to read!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought God called me to be “set apart.” If everyone around me is making decisions to go off the rails and do things that fly in the face of God’s heart, I’ve always felt perfectly justified in standing up for my principles, lifestyle and values when others don’t. In fact, isn’t this what it means to be a Christ-follower?

But recently, I had a revelation after reading this passage. Here’s what brought it on: I’ve personally made the decision to avoid alcohol. There are multiple reasons for this decision, but it’s become a comforting principle I fall back on whenever the option presents itself. This is who I am, and this is what I do, and it’s never been a very difficult decision for me to keep. But if I’m honest with myself, part of the reason why I choose not to drink is because I’m afraid. And this is what Corinthians challenged me on; it laid bare my motivations and my heart.

What’s radical and eye-opening about verses 19-23 is Paul basically says to be an intentional chameleon. He’s not saying we are to live willy-nilly, like a leaf in the wind, mirroring all of the behavior people exhibit around us under the pretense of “reaching them for Jesus.” But he is saying we need to be willing to carefully, thoughtfully, and intentionally “be all things to all people,” and I’d like to gently suggest this even means that when God calls us to, through the moving of his Spirit, we are to relinquish our principles for the Gospel if we can reach people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

I realized part of me isn’t abstaining from certain lifestyles simply because I think it’s the right thing for me to do. I’m abstaining because the thought of giving up my principles actually makes me afraid.

But verses 19-23 reveal that Paul is saying our freedom is for just this kind of scenario; not for aimless law-breaking simply because we can, but so we can be what people need us to be to reach them with the love of Jesus. There are obviously things God would never call us to do, but those aside, can I trust God, if he calls me to give up one of my principles, that I won’t slide down the slippery slope to a dark place? That’s the question these verses made me wrestle with. I hope this devotional will give you something to think about as well, since “God [has given] us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Ashley Carr
High School Teacher

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