Finding Common Ground
Let His Light Shine Before We Even Say His Name
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
When reading the epistles, it is easy to see that Paul was an effective and dynamic preacher. Although he was not always fit for spreading the gospel, once he learned that God had chosen him to preach to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, he changed his perspective and conformed it to God’s will. He then demonstrated that he could persuade and motivate Romans, Greeks, and Jews alike. His logic was sound and his emotional appeal was powerful. However, what made him most effective was his ability to find common ground with people so that he could bring them to Christ.
We could learn a lot from Paul, because God too has called us to reach and minister to the world around us; to the world that extends far beyond the walls of our church that hosts people from all walks of life. If we look closer at the key to Paul’s success in reaching people, we will see that he welcomed the opportunities God gave him, and then went beyond superficial contact. For example, when Paul became shipwrecked in Acts 27, he first comforted and encouraged the sailors that were with him. “Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head,” (Acts 27:34). Then, “after he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves,” (Acts 27:35-36). Here we can see that he acknowledged the current state they were in first, before he even mentioned God. As a result, they were encouraged.
We, too, can imitate this approach and can prepare ourselves to find commonalities with whoever we encounter. Before we begin to share the good news, we should consider exploring the needs, concerns, likes, and dislikes of people first. Additionally, and most significantly, we need to take into account and show respect for people’s customs and cultural differences. In a world that is heavily divided, Paul is showing us that we can bridge the gaps that divide us by letting God’s greatest command, to love one another, be at the core of our actions, and allow Jesus to shine through our attentiveness and flexibility.
Moving forward, I pray that God will help us embrace this concept and give us opportunities to reach different people the way Paul did. May we become spiritual chameleons that do not conform to the ways of the world, but comply with what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” May we also remember what Titus 2:11 says, “for the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”