Becoming All Things to All Men
We mentioned culture earlier. There are some people who, in order to bring a person to Christ, will try to match that person’s culture. If the non-Christian wears a head covering, then the believer will wear a head covering. If the person wears earrings, then the believer will also wear earrings. They will go to the same places and do the same things to win the person to Christ. What about that?
You mean the believer wears earrings to try to bring someone with earrings to Christ?
Yes, in order to identify with the person or their culture, they will do the same thing as the non-Christian does.
I would be careful with that. In 1 Corinthians 9 when Paul talked about “being all things to all men in order to win some,” he wasn’t talking about copying culture. He talked about “to the weak, I am weak” but he was never “weak” and he didn’t act weak. He was, however, willing to put himself in their situations, just like Jesus, who sat and ate with the Pharisees in order to win them. But Jesus didn’t become like them. He wouldn’t wash his hands in order to please them. And remember they wanted to kill Him because of it! He wouldn’t “keep the Sabbath holy” like they wanted Him to. Instead, He healed the man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. So, even though He was a Jew and their culture was His culture, He wouldn’t do everything that they expected Him to do in order to please them.
A line is crossed when “conforming to the patterns of the world” becomes sin (Rom. 12:2). Conforming to someone’s level in that way won’t bring them up to God’s level. Jesus was eating with the Pharisee at the Pharisee’s table in order to talk with the man. But that was very different than becoming like the Pharisee in order to impress him so He could talk with him more. Jesus just came as Himself.
When He came to the Pharisees, people didn’t like it. “What are you doing, Jesus, eating with those people?” And He said, “I’ve become a Pharisee, to the Pharisees.” Now, did He act like the Pharisees? No. Did He dress like the Pharisees? No. Did He talk like them? No, but He sat with them. He went onto their turf while everyone else was saying, “Oh, don’t eat with the Pharisees!” He was saying, “No, I’m going to be all things to all men. I’m going to go into their territory, and talk with them man-to-man, face-to-face.”
He did not apologize for who He was. He refused to wash His hands even though they expected Him to. He did not obey their culture, but He was willing to be there with them.
Now there is a line of caution where we can begin to compromise in order to impress someone, and God never suggested that we do that. It is a total misinterpretation of being “all things to all men” to begin to act like unbelievers, dress like them, or for a man to wear really long hair so you could talk to them.
Dressed just like I am now, with my hair just like this, I walked right into a crowd of hippies smoking marijuana. One of those guys of the five or six I was talking to—I pulled him right out of a crowd of hippies and won him to Jesus. But I didn’t have to become a hippie in order to “be all things to all men.” I went in just as I was, but I was there on his turf. You see? I didn’t stand back and say, “Oh, I’m not like them!” I became all things to all men. I walked right into the middle of them and talked with them freely and openly without any fear. But I didn’t grow my hair long or smoke marijuana. I went to him right where he was and helped win him to Jesus and he came out of the world. Now, fifteen years later, he’s one of my neighbors. I didn’t just ask him to pray some prayer and “abracadabra” and walk away from him. He’s part of my life to this day, fifteen years later.
He came out of that life, not because I went and acted like he did, but because I was willing to go onto his turf without any fear. That is a little different than what people sometimes say “all things to all men” must mean. They say you have to be weak because Paul said, “To the weak I became weak.” Paul was never “weak” a day in his life! Even before he was a Christian he was “strong” (at least he thought he was).
So becoming “all things to all men” means we’re willing to reach out to people wherever they are without any prejudice or fear. We don’t separate ourselves from people because “we’re Christians and they’re not.” We get right where they are, regardless of their station or culture.