This is challenging stuff that ties in with missional thinking & discussions that we’ve been talking about on this blog – and are trying to think through in the great wee church that I’m a part of.
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
– Believers are to follow the ‘example of Christ’ as the ‘friend of sinners’. Jesus’ mission shapes ours and his mission was to the ‘unreligious’ or ‘lost’ in a very religious society. Dickson’s key point here is ‘Our entire life, including our social life, should demonstrate the Lord’s desire to have fellowship with sinners.’
– Paul follows the example of Jesus (11:1). Like Jesus he engaged in scandalous social interaction with sinners in becoming, like Jesus, ‘all things to all people’ for the sake of the gospel. Social interaction, especially eating with people, is an embodiment of the grace and welcome of the gospel. A simple point: ‘Those who most regularly get into spiritual conversations with others are usually the ones with a wide circle of non-believing friends in the first place.’
And so a missional question: he asks
‘is your social life orientated towards the good of others – being with them, befriending them, doing good to them and speaking to them about Christ when opportunity invites?’
This is what Dickson calls a ‘salvific mind-set’. It is not adding mission or evangelism to busy lives or piling on unrealistic expectations on ordinary Christians to be superstar evangelists (this sort of unrealistic pressure only generates guilt and feelings of inadequacy).
Dickson does not spell this out, but what sorts of radical changes might be implied in both personal and church life to re-orientate all of life outwards to the mission of Jesus?