Boxing Air

Yesterday’s make up. T-shirt and old Adidas pants.  A short and lively game of Memory (keep the cards turned face up and race to make matches…mama-of-a-preschooler trick), a little dancing to Sesame Street and settle down for lunch.

Monday mornings after I’ve worked the weekend.

Finally I sit down to work on a class assignment.  I come across this passage and it sends a little zing to my heart:

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became 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, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings….So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.  (1Corinthians 9:19-23, 26-27)

Monday morning house silent now except for the occasional sounds of spring breeze and chimes floating through my windows.  My vision fills with bright green leaves, fuchsia blooms and dancing shadows.  I can hardly take in what I believe Paul is saying.

So contrary to the way I’ve thought and lived for most of my life.  And yet I’ve heard the Paul letters preached my whole life.

Paul strives to win people to the gospel.  Not for the sake of winning, but for the sake of the gospel.  For the sake of people.

“I become all things to all people.”  He absolutely, purposefully and emphatically chose to relate to people exactly as they were. 

My heart quivers a bit.  Like leaves on the breeze, moved.

My heart hears a melody.  Like birdsong, a declaration.

The love of Christ changes the hearts of those filled with it.  The love of Christ  draws the lives of those exposed to it.

See, I’ve lived most of my faith this way:  I’ll tell you about God’s love and then you can prove you believe it by becoming like me.

Oh, I’m proud to be your counselor, advice-giver, corrector, judge and answer-giver.  But I won’t become like you.  I won’t relate to you.  Really hear you.  Truly see you.  Actually put myself in your shoes.  Attempt to understand the life you’ve lived, your experiences, your defenses and coping mechanisms.  I won’t love you, invest myself in you, without a return on my investment. 

But that is simply not the gospel!

The Gospel is a by all means affair.

Touching leprous skin
Sharing a table with criminals
Conversing with a woman of a hated race
Hanging bloody, like a thug, on a tree

Jesus loved deeply and freely.   He was a runner.  A becomer.  He ran toward the lost, not away from them.  He became the thing He was not–broken–so we could mend and be whole.

Blinded by love, Paul could finally see how much people mean to God.

So Paul ran.  Paul became.

No more holding back.  No more boxing air.

Jesus, help me to see what matters to you concerning people.  Help me see myself more humbly and clearly.  Help me stop doing the gospel by pushing people around with it and instead truly love them without an agenda.  Help me to have an open heart that you can fill up with your love for me.  Help me to give that love away freely, without expectations, while putting the response and results in your hands. 

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