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“I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.” When I was younger I had a great deal of difficulty understanding that statement. I grew up in a Christian family, and started going to church before I was born. I am thankful for that, but there are some challenges to it too. Because I went to the same church from as far back as I can remember until after I was married, most of my formative Biblical teaching came from that one place. So, when I read the above sentence in I Corinthians 9:22, I thought that can’t be the right thing to do. Certainly God doesn’t want us to compromise our standards, does He? After all, people have been martyred for sticking up for what they believe. What does Paul mean by becoming all things to all people? Is he being wishy-washy? Is he bowing to peer pressure?

As always, context is essential, and I believe that context comes into play in two ways when we seek to understand the passage of I Corinthians 9:19-22: Biblical context, and today’s context. To understand the Biblical context, we should start back at I Corinthians 8. Paul was talking to the Corinthians about not eating food sacrificed to idols. To Jesus, the most important thing is what is in your heart, not what you put in your stomach. (Mark 7:17-23, I Samuel 16:7) So what you eat is not an important issue, but if by eating it you cause someone else to be confused about what is right, or to be turned away from God, then what you eat certainly does matter. So Paul chose not to eat meat in order to avoid causing someone else to sin. The Biblical context continues in I Corinthians 9:1-18. Here Paul is declaring that as a minister of the gospel he does have the right to financial support from the Corinthians, so that he can focus his time and energy of sharing God’s word. But Paul gives up that right, not because he isn’t entitled to it, but so that he is under no obligation to anyone but Christ. For this reason he can bring the message to both Jews and Gentiles. He uses his own life experiences to make connections with both groups. He does not compromise the message of salvation, but he does put it in a context that can be understood by his audience.

That brings us to today’s context. If only we could learn from Paul. Very often, the people who go to church today are there because they’ve always gone to church. They focus on the programs, the type of music used in the service, and how to pay the bills. Meanwhile, outside of the church is a big wide world that doesn’t understand its purpose. They don’t see the point of going to church because they don’t know Jesus, and we as a church are not introducing them to Him, because we are too busy focusing on less significant details or on building bonds of friendship with those who already believe the same things we do. There is nothing wrong with building relationships inside the church, but if we do not associate with people who believe differently, how will we ever show them the truth of the gospel? Unfortunately, many of the people who do engage with others are passing judgement on them, telling them that they are wrong and we are right. The truth is that for many issues we cannot fully know what is right. We are all just flawed humans, and only God is God, and only He knows everything. We can, however, meet people in the context of their culture and share what is truly important: God’s love.


When I was very young, there was a comedian by the name of Flip Wilson who had a TV show. I don’t remember the show all that well because, like I said, I was very young. But I do remember that one of his routines made popular the saying, “The Devil made me do it.” It became common to hear people use that phrase to excuse any kind of inappropriate action that they may have committed. Did you eat the last piece of cake? Yes, but the devil made me do it.

Interestingly, people today still use a similar excuse for bad behaviour, though they may not use the same words anymore. Somehow in their minds they believe that Satan has power over them. Nothing makes Satan happier, I’m sure. Yes, Satan will surely put temptations in our way. In the book of Job, we see that Satan spends his time roving around the earth looking for someone to provoke. (Job 1:7, Job 2:2) I Peter 5:8 tells us that we need to be alert and aware because Satan is surely out to devour us. He does this very cunningly, by deception. He doesn’t want us to know that his goal is to devour us; he makes it look much more pleasant than that, (II Corinthians 11:14) but what he really wants is to turn us away from God.

The truth is that if we have God on our side, we are more powerful than Satan. God gives us this promise, with instruction, in James 4:7-8. The instruction is to submit to God and resist the devil, to cleanse our hands and make our hearts pure. We are still responsible for the choices that we make. We need to focus on God and His purposes, instead of our own human desires. (James 1:13-15) We need to think with an eternal perspective. Sometimes we just need to think before we act. Then the promise comes into effect. If we resist the devil, the devil will flee from us. If we draw near to God, God will draw near to us. In both cases we need to take the first step. We are not just puppets in this game. We are responsible for the decisions we make and for the actions we take. But the more we spend time with God, through prayer and Bible study, the more easily we will be able to recognize Satan’s schemes and then make good choices.

The following video is an example of Flip Wilson's routine:


September 11. Yes, I remember. I remember the shock, the disbelief, the thought that this looked like a clip from a disaster movie. And yes, I remember where I was, though I have no idea why that is important to people. I remember the vision of the avalanche of ash flooding through the streets. I remember the people running and screaming to try to stay ahead of it. I remember people jumping from the towers to their death, because the alternatives were worse. I remember the tears and anguish of people searching for their loved ones, hoping against hope that they had survived. But I don't want to remember those things.

Though I can't begin to imagine the loss from so great a tragedy, I understand what it is like to lose a loved one. Eleven years is far too soon to forget. But I do not wish to remember an act of hatred. It frustrates me that the people who did this have had such a lasting place in our thoughts, that these images were ever put into our thoughts to begin with. I would much rather focus on love.

The members of the emergency response departments, including volunteers from across the USA and Canada, demonstrated the ultimate courage and love as they faced this monstrous disaster head on. Their acts of bravery saved many lives, and sometimes cost them their own. But even though that was love in action—love of country and love for others—I am saddened at that memory too.

The kind of love I want to focus on, is the kind that will prevent this sort of thing from happening again. Can you even begin to imagine what this world would be like if we followed the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave to his followers? Love God. Love others. (Matthew 22:37-39) We would show consideration and respect for God’s creation—the world around us and each other. We would do what we could to help each other out. We would work together, instead of in competition. Imagine what we could accomplish. Yes, we might lose our temper from time to time and do something we regret, but acts of hatred would not be premeditated. I know that this ideal world that I’ve imagined is not fully possible on this side of heaven, but if we each did our best to live this way, we could get a little closer to it. I think it is worth the effort to try. In honour of those who gave their lives on September 11, 2001, will you try with me?


Here it is: the end of another summer. Not technically as far as the seasons go, and certainly not everywhere in the world, but here in North America just about all students have ended their summer vacation and have returned to school. Where I live, there are hints of autumn in the air lately too—wisps of coolness in the breeze, and leaves are starting to turn colour and fall from the trees. Our summer was dry and hot. It was wonderful for those who spent their time at the beach, but after a winter with very little snow, and spring with very little rain, the farmers were having a hard time getting their crops to grow. We have already been warned of higher food prices to come because the fields have yielded less fruit this season.

The same principal holds true for the fruit of our lives as well. What we feed our hearts and minds will determine the fruit we produce. Proverbs 11:30 says that the fruit of the righteous is like a tree producing life. Just as a tree produces fruit that sustains physical life, the fruit of a righteous person can sustain or improve spiritual life. We can be an encouragement or a comfort to others, but only if we have been fed enough ourselves. If we are weary, sick or disheartened, how can we find it within us to give hope to another?

There are several ways to feed your soul. You can read uplifting and educational books that will help your mind focus on the right things. Spend time with good friends who encourage you (but remember that they can’t give continually to you without being recharged themselves). Take time to talk to those who have walked your path before you and allow them to share their wisdom. But the two most important ways are through Bible study and prayer. Spend time with God, and let Him replenish you. Let Him help you to grow into a tree producing life.