Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 (CSB)
Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NLT)
As we age, it is commonly believed that change becomes more difficult for many of us. Perhaps it is because we want to hold onto those familiar and comfortable things for us. This notion can be an obstacle to fulfilling our commission to “go and make disciples among all nations. ” The forces that oppose us would like nothing better than to distract us from doing the ministry and mission that God has given to us. We must be able to lead, adapt and change. We must be able to distinguish between those things that are fundamental and vital and those things that represent style.
Style or Principle
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” -Thomas Jefferson
The crux of the problem comes when we encounter difficulty distinguishing between style and principle. Some people see everything as a matter of principle; the clothes that we wear, the day and time that we worship, traditional versus contemporary, and on and on. However, other people go in the opposite direction, holding to no core principles believing that everything is a matter of style. Neither position, taken to the extreme, is healthy or productive. We must find the proper balance.
We have a mission to make disciples, and unless we understand the difference between style and principle, we will fail to make the impact needed to change this world for Christ. Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
No Compromise on Principles
Paul did not compromise principle, but he was flexible when it came to matters of style. Let us not be obsessed with fashion but stand firm on the Word of God. For instance, if we are most effective in a suit and tie, then go with the style. If blue jeans and a T-shirt work, that’s okay too. But either way, do not judge others in matters of style. Be patient and loving with each other and encourage one another to fulfill the commission given by our Lord.
I used to look at the world around me and ask the Lord to help me see through His eyes. I am drawn to Scriptures like, “he looked upon the crowd and had compassion upon them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I thought that if I could see people the way Jesus sees them, that would change my heart and move me to love them as He loves them. We must not underestimate the importance of this. In Matthew, we read. “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “Matthew 25:40 (NLT)
In addition to seeing through the eyes of Jesus, He wants us to look into the faces of those in prison, those who are strangers, or those in need. He wants us to see Him in their faces. So instead of seeing through the eyes of Jesus, we see with our own eyes Jesus in them.
Bread for the Nations
Jesus is the bread of life, and “as he is so are we in this world.” The last sermon of my grandfather, Pastor Ted Lanes, was titled, “The Crumbs Ministry or Bread for the Nations.” Here was his concluding prayer, “The whole world is hungering for the true bread of life. We need to dedicate ourselves individually. Lord, give me a Bread Ministry. May my life be free from the chaff, and may the wheat be gathered into the garner, and Lord you will make us to be wheat for the nations. God, in the name of Jesus, we pray that on the morrow we should recognize the fact that we are wheat from the Master’s table.”
To be “Bread for the Nations,” we must be able to separate style and principle. When Paul said, “I become all things to all men, that I might win some,” he was telling us that fashions can change, but not principles. We must not lose sight of this principle or become distracted so that we neglect the “Bread Ministry” because if we do, many will continue to go hungry for the only thing that will bring them life. We must know when to swim and when to stand.