…even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
We come into the world wanting attention. “Hey, look at me. Look at what I have or what I can do.” But when we are born again, that focus changes, or it should. Instead of saying, “Look at me,” we should say, “Look at Him.”
If your life was an advertisement for Christ and His kingdom, how effective would it be?
Some people share their faith by handing out gospel tracts. Others carry a big Bible and preach in a public square. Some enlist in witnessing programs, like Evangelism Explosion. Then there’s the bring-a-friend-to-church method. Nothing wrong with these efforts at bringing the lost to Christ. But nothing represents Christ better than godly living and a sincere concern for others.
In the two previous devotions, I emphasized the importance of valuing others, placing them in high esteem, and giving them respect. That’s what Paul means when he says, “I try to please everyone in every way.” He lived a godly life around everyone, including prison guards. And he was motivated by a higher purpose, not for his benefit, but for the benefit of others.
He didn’t allow mistreatment, slights, or the offensive behavior of others to alter the way he treated them. Paul employed the hard teachings of scripture that call for loving your enemies, blessing those who persecute you, loving your neighbor as yourself, and forgiveness. He took the position, “If God loves me, after all I’ve done, then I can love you.” In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
Paul’s statement that he tried “to please everyone in every way,” does not mean that he conformed with the sinful practices of the crowd he wanted to reach for Christ. He didn’t go out drinking with the boys, attend wild parties, or embrace the seedier side of life to accomplish the higher purpose. But he treated everyone with respect, valued them more highly than himself, and looked beyond their faults to focus on their greater need.
Red Lobster has been running a TV ad lately that makes me want their lobster dinner every time I see it. That’s amazing, considering I don’t like lobster. The ad gurus have successfully caused me to think again about something I had previously dismissed. Oh, that I could live my life in such a way that someone who had rejected Christianity would take a second look.
Who in your life is the thorn in your side? Thank the Lord if no name comes to mind. However, for most of us there is someone, or more than one, who has hurt us deeply. We say we forgive them but the wounds remain. The thought of valuing them higher than ourselves may sound good in theory, but it’s not practical. When misfortune comes their way, we can’t help but get a little satisfaction from it. They are deplorable, reprehensible, and undesirable. Yet they remain in your life. By necessity, possibly because the two of you were once married and had children together. Or that coworker who treated you horribly is now your boss. Or maybe you were betrayed by a friend.
As a Christian, your higher purpose is to be faithful to God by honoring Him with your life, which includes following all of God’s directives, not just what is convenient. That includes being good to all. Paul’s motivation for rising above his personal feelings was for the salvation of others and to honor God.
Granted, some of the people who have hurt us claim to be Christians. But that doesn’t excuse our responsibility to uphold a godly witness.
Our good conduct doesn’t guarantee that anyone will be saved or that any Christian will correct their behavior. But it does guarantee that God will be honored and represented in the world as He should be.
Let your light shine on everyone and leave the results up to God.
For more on this topic, check out this article: The Powerful Influence of Faith
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.