Some of the most radical, inspiring and challenging verses I’ve ever read are 1 Cor 9:1-23 where Paul outlines his rights as an Apostle. A Roman citizen, a Hebrew of Hebrews, he comes from a background of privilege. In addition, he is an Apostle transformed by an encounter with Jesus and he is the guy who started the church in Corinth.
But Paul says he gives up all his rights, his freedoms and his power and his privileges. In fact, he says he’ll put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. He says he’s even willing to give up all his freedom, and become a slave to everyone.
This is just nuts. Slavery is a terrible thing. But he goes even further. He will give up everything so that he by all possible means he might save some. Everything that defined his sense of self, that previously gave him life, these things he would give up.
Why would he do this? First, the very nature of the gospel demands it. The gospel is the (his)story of the Son of God giving up all his rights, including his right to life, so that we might be reconciled to God. There is no glory without the cross.
Second, this is what it takes to win as many as possible to Christ. All around me, and deep in my heart, I see followers of Jesus who are stubbornly holding on to our power and privilege, our freedoms and our rights. We want to live just like everyone else, and then we wonder why no one really believes our message of a self-giving, sacrificial God. We want all the glory our culture has to offer then, when we die, all the glory the gospel has to offer.
Christmas is a wonderful reminder of the downward mobility of God for us. Let it also be a profound challenge for us to embrace similar journeys of downward mobility. Let us lay aside our power, our privilege, our position, our possessions and give ourselves in love to others so that, by any means possible, some might be saved and we might inherit the ultimate glory of the gospel.