Meeting People Where They Are
One of our church’s values is to bring those far from God near to God. Paul was famous for doing this throughout his ministry, and he provides us tangible, lived-in examples of how to meet people where they are to share the Gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-21, Paul says:
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
There’s a lot to unpack in these verses. Essentially, Paul is saying that he met with Jews (those under the law) and followed Jewish customs and talked from a Jewish perspective to guide Jews closer to Christ. Paul also met with Gentiles (those not having the law) and talked to them from a Gentile perspective to guide them closer to Christ, too. By pushing aside his own potential discomfort and engaging Jews and Gentiles in their way of life, Paul came from a place of mutual trust and understanding when he shared about Christ.
That isn’t to say that Paul followed other peoples’ ways to the extent of sinning or breaking his own relationship with God. He doesn’t break Christ’s law to save his neighbor, but he readily and cheerfully denies himself instead.
We can learn so much from such a small paragraph of Scripture. When we want to share God’s love, it is not enough for us to passively say we would welcome anyone who came through our doors. We must be active and bring people ourselves. So many face automatic barriers to the church - be it the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, the homeless, the poor - that we can’t leave them the burden of finding a welcoming home and a relationship with Jesus on their own.
We need to meet people where they are and live. Become their community. Seek first to understand them, then to be understood ourselves.
Jesus was amazing at reaching out His hand to everyone in love. Those who’d been dismissed, He embraced. Those who’d been labeled sinners, He chose as disciples. Those who’d messed up one too many times, He chased after.
Who do you know who is far from God? Who are you praying for? Who are you not praying for? Reaching out your hand can be terrifying. I don’t know how Jesus is so persistent to love even after persistent rejection, but He is. And for us, His overwhelming love is available whenever we need it. We’re all His people. We’re all His children. Let us take His hand as we keep reaching out with our own.