Today we look at adapting. Paul says he “adapted to the culture.” The Message translates this verse as: “I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!”
The adapting never meant that Paul changed, but that Paul was able to understand, to empathize with a person. In being able to put himself in the shoes of another, he was able to see things more clearly from their point of view. When we can see where someone is coming from, we can relate better, and this helped Paul to connect, to engage, and to share Jesus. Note that he “didn’t take on their way of life.” This is important. Adapting doesn’t mean changing. We aren’t meant to be a chameleon changing our colors, nor are we meant to dip our toes into something that may be unholy. Just like Jesus, we can interact with sinners without crossing a line. Remember, we are not to drink deeply from the culture around us.
How can we adapt like Paul? This takes an investment. It cannot be a quick nod in the grocery store. You must speak to a person — and more importantly, you must listen. When you listen, you aren’t listening to respond. You are listening to hear what is truly being said. The listening shouldn’t be followed by an immediate to-do list in response. Slow down. Listen. Pray. Pause. Allow the Spirit to lead you. It takes time to break in some new shoes, right? Well you are trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. Take the time to break them in for your feet. Walk with them. This is not about accomplishing a project. You are building a relationship. In time, you’ll be able to understand their journey more clearly.
“I became “weak” to the weak to win the weak. I have adapted to the culture of every place I’ve gone so that I could more easily win people to Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22 [TPT]
Heavenly Father, thank You for the honor and privilege of being entrusted with the Good News. Spirit, help us to listen fully and to be slow to speak. Give us the right words at the right time. May my heart be more open to other people so that I can better understand them. Lord, keep me focused on You above all else. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.