All Things To All People

June 1, 2017
by Martin Wiles

1 Corinthians 9:22b – I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (NKJV)

What is understandable to one person isn't necessarily understandable to someone else.

Our good friends had moved to South Carolina from Colorado. The wife, Jan, was a native Coloradoan, and the husband a native South Carolinian. When Jan's mother-in-law sent her to the store to get loaf bread, she assumed that it would be an easy mission. After all, who doesn't know what bread is?

A few minutes later, Jan called. "I don't see any loaf bread."

"You mean, the store is completely out of bread?" her mother-in-law replied.

"No, I see plenty of bread. There is just no Loaf brand."

I'm with Jan. In the neck of the woods where I grew up — the lower regions of South Carolina — bread was just called bread. At the most, I might say that I was going to get a loaf of bread, but never did I refer to it as loaf bread. Since bread is cooked in loaves, calling it loaf bread seemed redundant. Then again, I didn't grow up in upstate South Carolina where that's a familiar term — just like hose pipe. I always knew it as hose or garden hose. After all, they are hoses, not pipes. Of course, I have sayings that my wife — an upstate girl — isn't familiar with either.

As an early missionary, Paul, too, faced customs — and probably terms — that he wasn't familiar with. His goal was to find common ground with people, at least as much as was possible without compromising the gospel message that he preached.

Having grown up in church, I'm familiar with a host of churchy words that others who haven't grown up in church might find foreign — words like justification, sanctification, glorification, millennialism, vestibule, pulpit, sanctuary — and the list goes on.

Like Paul, my mission as a believer is to share God's love and offer of forgiveness with all people, regardless of nationality, race, language, culture, or social standing. Doing so means learning their "language", so that I can modify — but not compromise — my churchy language. Then, they can understand what God has done for them in Jesus Christ and accept His forgiveness. Otherwise, they will go on their merry way in an unforgiven state.

Let us all learn to find common ground with those who don't know Christ, so that we can point them to His gracious love.

Prayer: Father, may we love others, even as You have loved us. Amen.

About the author:

Martin Wiles <mandmwiles@gmail.com>
Greenwood, South Carolina, USA

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Umm … I’m English … so what exactly is loaf bread??


    Thanks Martin for clarifying how to share the Good News with those who haven’t heard or believed. Blessings.


    Excellent devotional Martin. Like the apostle Paul, may we become all things to all people so that we may win some to Christ.


    Good word Martin. In today’s world many children of school age do not have any concept or knowledge even of God, creativity and wisdom in sharing the gospel is becoming more and more important.
    Blessings.


    Hi Martin,
    As a friend of mine, now departed, used to say, “Keep it simple.” when we talk about our faith, I think it is very important, so that everybody can understand.
    Thank you for writing.


    Dear Mr. Wiles,
    You have spoken of a very essential consideration when we are making the gospel of grace known. It is part of being gracious to consider how others hear or read us. We must pray for wisdom.
    I have to question your expression of going on a “merry” way unforgiven. I would call that a “sad” way.
    Cheerio, and may God continue to bless you in all of your writing.

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