The Brooklyn bridge completed in 1883 was an outstanding wonder of the world. It spanned the east river of New York, and connected the then separate cities of Manhattan and Brooklyn to one another. The quest to build the bridge was historic because of the then improbability of spanning a bridge across water at such extensive lengths (the longest span is about 1600 feet).
The completion of the Brooklyn bridge meant accessible living for the masses who were outgrowing the bounds of Manhattan. It paved the way for seemless trade between the two cities, and later when the cities merged, was a platform for free flow from one end of the newly formed New York metropolis to the other.
Bridges connect separated pieces of geography with one another, allowing for trade, transportation of goods and movement of people from one end to another. A bridge brings much needed resources from one locale to another.
The Apostle Paul saw his ministry as kind off like a bridge whereby he could be connect those who don’t know Christ with the gospel, the good news of Christ’s sacrificial love.
Paul recognized that in his day there where all kinds of people, and that reaching them need different approaches, for each group had its own unique sensitivities.
He shares his thoughts about his quest for the world’s salvation in 1 Corinthians 9
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 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. 21 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. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Just as building the Brooklyn bridge, seemed impossible yet was accomplished, Paul knew that reaching the world, though was monumentally challenging, could be accomplished. His solution – build a bridge. Paul thought of the different groups in his day, (the Jews who adhered to the law, the Greeks who didn’t, the upper class who were powerful in society and the working class who were not) and realized that he had to build a bridge of relatabilty in order to reach the specific individual or the group they hailed from.
Paul’s strategy was simple. He would become all things to everyone. Becoming all things to everyone does not mean he would lose his moral compass and just allow the tide of society to carry him wherever the people went. Remember first century Roman world was very perverse. No, Paul still had a clear sense of holiness and calling to know where he stood. For Paul, this accommodation to his society was that he would be flexible as much as he could, and engage with them as much as was possible. He would find ways to meet with unbelievers whether through his trade of tent making, or would frequent public spaces such as open markets and community centres. Paul would not insulate himself from the world, by clinging just to his Christian community, but would go into the world and be a friend of sinners like Jesus did. Specifically this meant he would eat and drink (of course not to excess) with Gentiles, which at that time was culturally unacceptable.
See, becoming all things to everyone means that you find a way to build a bridge with that neighbour who seems to ignore you or being more open to have conversations with your co-workers after work instead of rushing off home. It means slowing down your schedule, and creating more time to allow others to be part of your life. For each one of us, building bridges means completely different things. For me I am challenged to be more friendly with the soccer parents as I sit on the sidelines waiting for my children. So often we miss simple opportunities like this that could potentially be a bridge building situation. What about you? How can you take advantage of your situation?
Paul’s ultimate motivation was for the Gospel. (look at vs 23 above). Like Paul, let’s seek to become all things to all men, not for our sake, or our church’s sake, but for God’s sake; for the Gospel’s sake.
– Pastor Olu Jegede