Here the Apostle Paul was showing that he sought to find common ground with whoever he met…whether Jew, Christian, slave, master, weak, or strong in the faith…in order to preach the Gospel to all. Unfortunately as a people, we generally look for petty differences and disagreements than seek out things that we share. But if we would take the time to think about it, we have much more in common with each other than we can disagree about. Finding common ground with one another can also be easier if we ask ourselves this question first…In the eternal scheme of things, does this matter? Sure, there’s some non-negotiables…but really, the vast majority of stuff we fight about makes no difference at all.
The Apostle Paul was given a thorn in his flesh…some chronic, painful condition that plagued him continually. And even though he had prayed three times for the Lord to take it – it remained. This was the same Paul who preformed extraordinary miracles, (Acts 19:11)…cast out evil spirits, (Acts 16:18)…and raised people from the dead, (Acts 20:10). But the prayers of his own healing went unanswered. Now many of us would react very badly if we had a great Ministry but were unable to be healed personally of some very visible disease. But Paul didn’t allow it to make him bitter, or doubt his worth. Rather, he looked at it from the viewpoint of his dependence on the Lord and his need for humility. For he writes in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength.” Paul gained his strength through his weakness…for God in His infinite wisdom gave Paul what he needed, not what he wanted.
There was Church division in Corinth…some followed Apollos, some Peter, and some Paul. All three were Godly men…all three were preaching the Gospel. So where could there be the disagreement? Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew that was converted to Christianity and tutored by Aquila and Priscilla in areas of the faith he was ignorant of. While Peter was one of the original twelve Disciples that had witnessed firsthand the work of Jesus. Finally there was Paul, a Jew and persecutor of the Christians until that fateful day on the road to Damascus when the Lord confronted him. All three were passionate about the Lord and the desire to evangelize. But they all came from different backgrounds and different life experiences, and their preaching styles showed it. Thus Paul exhorted the Believers to be joined together in Christ and the Gospel, not divided apart by man and subtle nuances.
Yes, Paul did have a “captive” audience to preach to…soldiers, guards, and other prisoners. But his example and love of Jesus shone through the dismal and wretched conditions. Paul simply loved people and built bridges of encouragement and trust with anyone he came in contact with.
You may know someone…it might even be yourself that’s developed this fateful disease know as Foot in Mouth. Some people are so affected, that the only time their foot comes out of their mouth – is to change socks! It takes wisdom and discipline not to just blurt out anything that comes to mind. It takes us thinking before we speak…is this appropriate?…is this kind?…will I regret saying this tomorrow? So much trouble and misery could be avoided if we’d just learn to think before we opened our mouth.
The Lord showed the Apostle Paul that all men – whether Jew or Gentile – were made in His image. This powerful encounter with God so impacted him, that later in Romans 10:12, Paul declares, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all…”
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to stay away from profane worldly babbling…and that warning could be for us today. Being around coarse, sacrilegious conversation day after day in the work place can desensitize us to what is right. Constantly being bombarded by godless musical lyrics, questionable TV shows, and violent movies can cause us to become apathetic… allowing us to compromise in more and more areas of our lives…each taking us farther and farther away from God.