...I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (ESV)
We live in a time when many people feel they must identify with a group or "tribe" in order to have a voice. Despite the fact that our culture elevates individualism, there is palpable pressure to align with a voting bloc or social movement. Don't believe it? Just watch the news or scroll through your social media feed. We aren't exempt in the Church either, where there is a real tendency to place ourselves and others in denominational, theological boxes.
The Apostle Paul, however, had a very different understanding of identity. His admonition to the church at Corinth was to imitate Jesus in such a way that they could truly love everyone they met. Paul believed that by finding common ground with all people, there was a greater opportunity to win at least some to the faith. His was not a call to keep some sort of tally of converts made; rather, he encouraged his audience to find joy simply in sharing the good news of Christ with others.
These words are freeing and encouraging for us in a time when we could so easily feel distanced from our neighbors who need to hear the gospel. Just as the early church worked out their witness in a time of deep division, we can do the same now, with joy.