1 Cor 10:32 “Do not give offense~| lit. “be blameless”] to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God, even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
The 1958 novel The Ugly American sold seven million copies and changed many US foreign policies. The title became a slogan to describe egotistical, self-interested Americans who cared little about other cultures.
Every country or people group will give different meanings to behavior and words. We communicate more by our actions, gestures, and intonation than we do by the words we speak. If we care about a people, we will avoid anything offensive.
This summation of Paul’s discussion (1 Cor 10:27–30) explained his attitude toward the cultural norms that defined different ethnic groups. Earlier, he wrote that he adjusted to the Jews, as well as to the different Gentiles where he labored (9:19–23).
In spite of Paul’s commitment not to offend different cultures, he never failed to share the gospel, even though this might cause offense. He boldly told the Jews and the Greeks to turn to God in repentance and to put their faith in Christ (Acts 20:21). Paul went out of his way not to provoke rejection of him as a messenger so that his message would not be discarded.
Paul never asked for anything for himself, even though he taught that all Christian workers are entitled to financial support (1 Cor 9:12–18). He forfeited his normal right for recompense so that others would never find his motives suspect and thus discard his message. He would do anything to communicate the gospel to all the cultures of his day.
Paul navigated a variety of cultural norms. He was comfortable with the Jews and many Gentile cultures, in which Greek or Latin were likely secondary languages. Most provinces were of different ethnicities. The distinct practices of the “church of God,” with a variety of scruples, forced Paul to adjust his lifestyle without violating any principle in Scripture.
Paul did not seek to benefit himself but to “please…everybody.” The word for please means “to fit, adapt to, accommodate to, or be acceptable to.” Big cities in North America may have more than two hundred cultures or languages, which demand an intercultural commitment from today’s messenger. Can you make everyone feel comfortable with you?
“Dear God, You care about all kinds of people and want us to make relevant Your word to them however difficult it may be. Help me to be sensitive to difference in other cultures, yet true to the purpose of communicating Your message of truth.”
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