St. Paul wrote ….
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, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
(From the Daily Office Readings, Mar. 16, 2012, 1 Cor. 9:20-23)
Confession time … this is one of those passages from the Pauline Epistles that makes me hate Paul. He’s such a self-important braggart! “Look at me,” he seems to be saying, “Look at all I’ve done, all the sacrifices I’ve made, all the effort I’ve put into sharing the Gospel with you! I am really the best evangelist there ever was!” ~ OK … I don’t hate Paul. I know he’s not really being an arrogant braggart in this letter … but doesn’t some of his writing sure seem that way? ~ What is going on here is that Paul is talking about flexibility! The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, reminds us that we are clay in God’s hands: “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jer. 18:6b) It seems that many people think that once the clay is formed for a specific purpose and will never again be reshaped for anything else, but that’s not the way things work in life and especially not in ministry. Spiritual clay cannot be rigid; it must be flexible to be formed for one purpose and then reformed for a different type of work according to God’s will. When Jeremiah went to the potter’s house as God led him, he saw that the vessel the potter was making ended up being reworked into another vessel as seemed good to the potter. God then asked, “Can I not do the same with you?” (18:5-6a) It seems to me that Paul (in is own inimitable fashion) is simply saying that God worked and reworked him time and time again, and that he had learned to be flexible. ~ An old friend used to be the Altar Guild director in her church. On the wall of the sacristy she put up a poster of wheat blowing in the wind; the caption read, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will never be bent out of shape.”