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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, March 24, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 9:19–23

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. (NRSV)

The Apostle of Christianity claims to have become “all things to all people.” He has been a Jew among Jews and a Gentile among Gentiles, all for the sake of winning and saving some for the gospel. It sounds duplicitous. It feels like a kind of sneaky undercover evangelism we can’t stomach. Masking your intentions behind a shape-shifting maneuver to match your identity, chameleon-like, to your surroundings?

I wonder if the evangelism work Paul is doing in Corinth is something like the identity work that youth culture and technology researcher danah boyd (she refuses to capitalize her name) observes teenagers doing on Snapchat and Tumblr, as they deploy different character traits and social conventions to fit the norms of different social media platforms. Learning the norms of a given culture in order to effectively participate need not be deceptive, and we need not conduct ourselves in exactly the same way in every context.

But be aware: contexts collapse. A context collapse occurs when, says boyd, “people are forced to grapple simultaneously with otherwise unrelated social contexts that are rooted in different norms and seemingly demand different social responses.” You know that’s tricky.

Maybe the test of our integrity is in the context collapse, though. Paul did not become all things to all people in order to leave all people in their own isolated silos. He did so to midwife the birthing of a Spirit-inspired community of all people born of Christ’s inclusive love. When our contexts collapse, are we building a new context out of the rubble or putting everything back to where it was before?

Spirit of the living God, there is not context or culture where you are not already at work. So embolden us to follow you in every place that we may live and learn and love as Jesus did, who bore in himself the collapse of every human context in order to raise all women and men to new life. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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