I have been reflecting over the last couple of days on St Paul’s words, “I have become all things to all people.” (1 Cor 9 v22)
His reason for wanting to do this is his longing for people to know the wonder and joy of the saving love of Jesus. This was his agenda. Paul’s words are very challenging to us as he is asking us to put aside our own judgements, and sometimes the desire to show the error of others – It would be so nice if others could have the same understanding as us!
Accepting others and journeying with them, to be their friend and their servant is at the centre of Paul’s heart. I love the way the Message version puts it: “I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, non-religious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated and the demoralized – whoever…I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”
Paul is not saying that by accepting people we are agreeing with them, but his longing is that through his life, in word and action, they would experience the love of Christ. This ability to accept people as they are comes from a growing understanding of our own identity in Christ, that we are his beloved, and that our lives are about showing others that they are God’s children and deeply loved. Our security is rooted in our relationship with Jesus.
We want this attitude to be at the heart of our life here at Scargill. We want to accept people who come through our doors even though they may not fit into our tidy theological understanding and this can obviously be disturbing.
Yet, however uncomfortable it may sometimes feel, our hope is that we show the warmth and accepting love of Jesus. I am sure many of us have been into churches where there have been such strong theological statements about God and life, that have felt so rigid and unyielding that it leaves very little space for dialogue or movement – It can be suffocating.
Scargill is about offering a safe place where the transformative love of God can do its mysterious work. As Ann Lamott says, ” God loves you exactly as you are and far too much to leave you as you are”.
Loving and accepting people for what they are can give us permission to adopt a different narrative if that is what is required.