Was Paul a man-pleaser? In reading 1 Corinthians 8 through 10, Paul’s continued references to becoming like whomever he was with almost made me think so, except that his response towards those in opposition to the gospel quickly dispels that notion. How was it, though, that he was willing to live in bondage again around different people, though he was absolutely free in Christ? Finally, it began to sink into my heart that Paul did it all because of love. He had such a revelation of God and His love that his life was a reflection of that amazing love – not only for him, but for everyone else. In fact, in his next letter, a short phrase sums up the guiding heartbeat behind his every action and word:
2 Corinthians 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, . . . NIV
You see, Paul understood the freedom he had received in Christ, far beyond what most of us have grasped; yet, he knew others could easily be led astray if he stayed focused only on his freedom. For others who didn’t yet know that same freedom in Christ, the gospel would be hindered. Nothing in Paul’s life was more important to him than being an effective witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere.
1 Corinthians 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. NIV
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 19 For although I am free in every way from anyone’s control, I have made myself a bond servant to everyone, so that I might gain the more [for Christ]. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to men under the Law, [I became] as one under the Law, though not myself being under the Law, that I might win those under the Law. 21 To those without (outside) law I became as one without law, not that I am without the law of God and lawless toward Him, but that I am [especially keeping] within and committed to the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak (wanting in discernment) I have become weak (wanting in discernment) that I might win the weak and overscrupulous. I have [in short] become all things to all men, that I might by all means (at all costs and in any and every way) save some [by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ]. 23 And I do this for the sake of the good news (the Gospel), in order that I may become a participator in it and share in its [blessings along with you]. AMP
This isn’t so hard for me to grasp when I remember that Paul followed Jesus Christ, and Jesus willingly suffered the pain, humiliation, and separation of crucifixion – because of love. Beyond that, Jesus humbled Himself by leaving His true home in heaven to come to earth as a man to live among us, imperfect man – because of love.
Will I follow Paul, as he followed Christ? In that love, will I yield my God-granted freedoms, when necessary, so I don’t hinder anyone’s journey to or in Jesus – the One I claim to represent? Will I become as one who is lost, that I might win them to Christ? Without increasing in the experience of God and His love in Christ, my answers will be “no.” If I will but purpose to know my Lord more, just to know Him, I will know His love more. I will be changed because of His love. In turn, I will help others see and know Christ – because His love compels me.