Be all things to all people, even the people who canâ€™t figure out who they are.
Drop in on just about any Church of Christ or RM congregation and you will find a lot of people who look very much alike. Mostly the same race, mostly the same socio-economic level, mostly the same political leaning, mostly the same in a lot of ways. No one would say it out loud, but in these churches deviations from the prescribed way of doing things, being, and believing are cause for a remedy. I actually remember someone talking about (not to) an African-American fellow in a mostly white church say that â€śhe was OK because he had been whitenized.â€ť Iâ€™m not sure what it means to be whitenized or what processes one goes through accomplish this task, but I just canâ€™t bring myself to think that it is all that good. Did he get bleached of his blackness? And is that better?
Anyway, I think the RM and C of Câ€™s are guilty (by intention or by accident) of whitenizing, Republican-izing, money-izing, male-izing (OK, itâ€™s gettingâ€™ weird now) the flock. Paul said he would be all things to all people, but the practice of the Church of Christ all too often has been the expectation that all people should become one thing â€“ an exact reversal of the great desire and effort of Paul.
Paul sought to be all things to all people.
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To 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. 21To 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. 22To 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. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
But he also viewed people not according to their categories of distinction:
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
At first glance, Paul seems at odds with himself. But a closer look would reveal that the reason he is seeking to be all things to all people is precisely because he does not elevate the distinctions between people to a level that matters. The more you think about it the more it makes sense. The more the distinctions do not matter, the less you risk by being something different for the sake of the gospel. On the other hand, when distinctions of these kinds do not matter, you take a greater risk because you highly offend the people for whom these distinction are foundational, essential, necessary for them to maintain their status. Race, gender, politics, SES, are all issues around which people gravitate for the sake of power and control. You risk less from the people different from you and risk more from the people who are the same as you. Sound familiar? Sounds like something Jesus did, a lot!!!
What Paul is seeking, I believe, is a mosaic. A larger beautiful picture made from smaller beautiful pictures.
It is now more important than ever to pursue this mosaic ideal Paul conveyed because the world can no longer be thought of as black and white (it never should have been). People these days wrestle with rather than embrace their old identities and are seeking and searching for new ones. This is true across the age span, but is more frequently true for the 30 and under crowd, maybe even the 35 and under crowd. There are lots of people who do not have a clue as to who they are and donâ€™t like the options available to them at the social and spiritual identity buffet table. The world is going postmodern and rather than blame it, we need to engage it with the same posture that we in the RM did the modern. (OK, maybe not the same posture. We swallowed the modern era hook-line-and-sinker and that was a bit naĂŻve).
Maybe what I am about to say is some kind of crazy-eyed dream (nightmare), but I think there is coming a day when churches which are comprised of only one kind will be seen as weird, weak, impoverished, inbred, wicked, hamstrung â€“ or even severely handicapped, getting wheeled into the Kingdom of Heaven in the most pitiful of ways. Maybe, from heaven, they are already viewed that way.