Though suggesting the need for Bible teachers to adapt, one of the qualities listed in the Be-Attitudes for Teachers, not everyone will find that easy. Whether because of personality or upbringing, some teachers will dig in their heels and push through their agendas regardless of the effect. Others may find it easy to adapt but for the wrong reasons … because they’re people-pleasers or because they don’t really have convictions themselves.
In the next several posts we will see from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 that there is a higher eternal purpose for being adaptable but we have to not only know how to adapt but in what. Foundational to a biblical approach to adaptability is having the right perspective.
Biblical Perspective Needed to Adapt in Ways That Count for Eternity
We find perspective in the first verse of the passage we’ll be breaking down to gain a better understanding:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. (1 Cor. 9:19)
1) Know your place in the Lord.
Paul made two assertions about His position in the Lord: 1) He was free. 2) He belonged to no one.
So it is with us. Jesus came to set us free … from sin, the law, and anything that would enslave our souls. — “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn. 8:36) And, we do not belong to anyone but the Lord. — “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
As Bible teachers, we’re first and foremost accountable to the Lord. Only He deserves our full allegiance. And, only He can give us all we need and make our lives full and meaningful. We will not find our significance in teaching but rather in Him. When we look to Him as our Source, we aren’t dependent on the applause of our students or everything going our way to feel good about what we’re doing. Because we aren’t holding on tightly to anyone or anything other than the Lord, we can let go and adapt as needed.
2) Choose to let go of your rights.
Just because we’re free doesn’t mean we have to live for ourselves. Rather, if we truly want to live in the fullness of our position in Christ, we choose the way of love and looking out for the good of others. Elsewhere Paul wrote, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Gal. 5:14)
One of the rights Paul gave up included his right to be materially or financially rewarded for his service seen in the context of prior verses. He said, “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). In other situations He did take support but in this case he adapted, choosing to let go of His rights for the greater good, for the specific people He served. Notice the wording in Paul’s statement, “I have made myself a slave”.
What you or I need to let go of as Bible teachers for the good of others may vary. Be sure of this, however, that we will have to make choices as teachers that may cost in terms of our time, agenda, opinions and preferences, and maybe even finances should we adapt to better meet the needs of our students. Also be certain of the significance of willingly, and not begrudgingly, choosing to adapt. Those who willingly choose to let go of their rights tend to be more cheerful teachers, finding encouragement and purpose in what they’re doing. Those who do it out of obligation, because it’s expected of them, will tend to at least inwardly grumble and complain, finding themselves more easily discouraged and resenting what their teaching is taking out of them.
3) View your choice as a calling.
Paul said, “I have made myself a slave to everyone” which doesn’t at first glance sound too exciting. However when we know our place in the Lord, temporarily letting go of our rights doesn’t actually strip us of our freedom. Rather, it means we’re becoming more Christ-like. We are called for this purpose, to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. n your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Phil. 2:3-7)
… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:26-28)
When we have a biblical perspective about adapting, or letting go of our rights for the good of others, we’ll view it as more of a privilege. We will gladly adapt “to win as many as possible” … the purpose, which will be the topic of the next post.