“If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.” (I Corinthians 9:16 – 17)
In seminary, one of my professors quoted a well-known preacher; I do not remember the preacher’s name -the person’s identity is not important. What is important is what this person said, “Preach the gospel always – use words if necessary.” Paul preached with words almost always; what he did not say, his life demonstrated. In my life, the reverse is more accurate. I tend to preach the gospel with my life, and use words less in comparison to trying to life out the Christian life. While I have written a great deal, and for many years, the time I spend writing is in smaller portion to the rest of my waking hours.
“What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.” (Verses 18 – 19)
Hmmm. I think my thinking and Paul’s thinking are going in different directions. At least, I do not think of myself as a slave . . . . to anyone. It is not “slavery” to write on scripture 4 times (this week five times) a week. Most times if is a privilege. Sometimes it is a discipline; even though at first I may squirm in setting myself down to write. But when I am done, I realize I have gained more than I have given. Let us see wheres Paul’s thinking leads him.
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” (Verses 20 – 23)
Actually as Paul explains this, I can see myself in it. When writing on scripture, one has to be mindful of who one’s audience is. As you may well know, beloved reader, Paul’s letters (aka epistles) were written to various faith circles and the content was crafted to who they were as a group and what they needed to hear and be told. Paul took on the persona of those he converted and preached to. Reading the different letters he wrote, you can get a sense of what those new believers were like. You can also get a sense of what Paul was like – after a fashion. But one has to be mindful that Paul the Jew was different than Paul under the law who was different from Paul outside the law, was even different from Paul who was weak. I confess that I too sometimes take on personas in order to make a point; “Preacher & Seeker” is a good example.
As I said a week or two back(?), or maybe just days back(?) I want to be more intentional in presenting my thought rather than just repeating back what scripture says. And revealing how scripture and spirituality impacts me. I am finding, as my Christian & spiritual life moves forward, there is more of Paul “in me” than I ever thought!
May you, beloved reader, preach with all the tools and skills at your disposable – using words as necessary and appropriate! Shalom & Selah!