1 Corinthians 9:19-23
We’re hearing a lot about rights these days. MY rights. YOUR rights. Immigration rights, State’s rights…the list can go on and on. And rights are a very constant and hot topic with political candidates right now, as well. Amidst the noise and clamor and arguing, where do Christians find guidance on this issue? How should we interpret our rights versus the rights of others?
Paul spends the entirety of Chapter 9 discussing the issue, and making the comparison between slave and free, of having spiritual authority regardless of recognition by people. He has made the case that his words, actions, and decisions are not his own, but divinely directed by God through the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to read the whole chapter so that our verses of interest have the proper context.
When Paul reaches verses 19-23, he has made the argument a number of was that he is free, and not a slave of the law. However, in order to spread the Good News and share in the blessings, he describes how he puts others before himself, ignoring his own rights of freedom in the interest of attracting non-believers to Christ. This is not how ancient culture worked, or our culture now, for that matter. “Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to ALL PEOPLE to bring many to Christ (verse 19)… I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some (verse 22b),” emphasis is mine.
Contradictory? Counter-intuitive? Genius?
Imagine the impact we would have in our families, workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods if we—Christians—shared Paul’s convictions and followed the behavior he models. Would we shed more light? Would people discover love and respect that had been previously absent? I like to think that we can, and will impact the world, and that others will find salvation by our loving behavior leading them to want to know the person of Jesus. It’s a tough challenge every day, but the Great Commission depends on it.