All things for all people?

Published 11:56 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

by Charles Qualls

Have you ever awakened to the notion that you were trying to live someone else’s life? Maybe you bought some strange clothes that just didn’t turn out to be your thing. You got that haircut you saw on TV, but it didn’t work for you. Maybe your dinner buddies bought themselves a new car, and within a few weeks you went out and bought one like it. Your best friend started the gluten-free diet and you did too. Then you remembered you aren’t even allergic to gluten.

We do this kind of thing, don’t we?

One of the basic tasks of becoming a healthy adult is figuring out who we are. Then, trying to get a read as to what that means your reality is going to be. Along the way, a healthy and adjusted adult grieves and lets go of some things they have realized they will never be. We have to let go of some dreams and hopes. But we also take ownership of who we have realized we are, and hopefully get a little more comfortable in our own skin.

Ideally, we even become happy on some level.

Some people, unfortunately, don’t ever completely settle into their own identity. They search and search, never satisfied with figuring out who they are. They are equally miserable in their attempts to try to be other people that they just simply aren’t.

I have known some 25-year-olds who were living like 50-year-olds, so clear and already established in their personhood they are. I have known 80-year-olds who had never turned the corner on becoming their own person.

The Apostle Paul says something that many of us can read in ways that it sounds quite different from what I’ve just said. I say that we “can” read it in ways that sound different because I sure hope that we don’t. In 1 Corinthians 9: 19-27, we could hear Paul suggesting that we should just find a way to become all things so that we can reach all people by any and all means.

I am convinced we hear those words and run off in all kinds of desperate directions in search of the next magic thing so that we can live another day. We look over at our neighboring church and we see that one thing they have. We want it for our church, too. We fail to see how bad at that we would probably be if we attempted to do what they do. That shiny thing they have may be unique to who they are.

We make these odd attempts so that we can succeed by some counts at which we haven’t succeeded in a long time. So that we can feel better about ourselves that we tried something new — anything — ignoring one simple dimension of Paul’s words.

So here’s what I don’t want us to miss from our text this week. When Paul talked about his freedom to become all these different things, he only named things that he actually was. He said that he became a Jew so that he might reach some that way. He became a sacrificial servant so that he might reach some that way. He lived apart from the Mosaic Law so that he might reach still others that way. He became weak or sick so that through his sheer effort he might reach more. These were all things that Paul very much already was.

Should we never try anything new? Of course we should. We must. Should a church, a business, a city or region never branch out in challenging ways? We’d better. But when we exceed our reach, we’ll rarely reap the benefits we wanted. When we step out of who we truly are, the surest thing we’ll find is misery.

When I was interviewing, I told our committee that if I came here I would be eager to learn what Franklin Baptist Church seems to be doing out of a sense of genuine ministry calling. I also wanted to see those things it may be doing out of a sense of fear.

Let’s be careful to hear Paul urging us to be everything we can be, but only with a clear sense of who we are. I think that’s a good word for our personal lives. I think it’s vital for us as churches and as businesses. The freedom he talks about is the freedom to be the best version of who God made us to be!

CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.