Oh, That’s Common Sense (Then Why Doesn’t Everyone Remember to Do It)

Thoughts from my last day at Mayo Clinic

Published: September 6, 2007

Do I Try to Find Common Ground?

Shortly after our conversations with our newfound friends at the Starbucks next to Mayo, I began reading in I Corinthians 9. I was sitting in the waiting room for my last appointment with the Internist before heading back to Atlanta.

“When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings (vs. 22-23).”

I want to dig into this on a much deeper level and understanding later today. But for now, I am fascinated with the simplicity and practicality of it. For one, it just makes sense. Do I share in people’s oppression? I want to see what the meaning of that word is here, but in a general sense it means to feel dominated, coerced or subjugated by something or somebody. To be oppressed is to be subjected to a harsh or cruel form of domination or to have worry, stress, or trouble because of somebody. It also means to hold something in check or put an end to it (Encarta World English Dictionary). For me it’s sickness. For others it’s a boss or a government.

The fact is many if not most people are oppressed by something, and Paul is saying we should share their oppression. To share means much more than just finding commonality. It can also mean to take equal responsibility for it, but I’m not sure (yet) if that is what Paul means here. The message is we must be responsible to share with others whatever they are going through for one overarching purpose: “so that I might bring them to Christ.” It doesn’t say, “so that they might be led to Christ” and it doesn’t say “so that someone might bring them to Christ.” It says “so that I might bring them to Christ.” It also doesn’t say “will”—it says “might” which means that doesn’t mean you must bring them to Christ, taking off the wrong kind of pressure. There’s a balance to this like everything else in the Christian walk.

Then Paul writes, “Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.” I love this because it speaks largely to the relational aspect of spreading Christ. It seems Paul didn’t just meet you and give you a four-step plan of the gospel (though I am sure he did that at times as the Spirit led). It says he tried to find common ground with everyone. It also doesn’t say he tried to find common ground with a certain people, or as the Lord led. It says “everyone”. Sometimes, I want to focus on a specific group of people so much so that I neglect that I could be a vessel to reach any one. I may focus on reading a young postmodern intellect, but God wants me to reach out to a fifty-year old businessman. Our focus should be God’s focus: everyone. When God gave me a vision he didn’t say go reach this people group or the twenty something’s. He said your audience is the world. I struggled with that, but isn’t that like God?

I was talking to a friend today who was sharing with me about sharing Christ with a guy this weekend. My friend was excited because he hasn’t done this as often as he used to. He said when he was in college it was such a hostile environment that he got used to not sharing Christ. He’s learning now this principle that Paul is teaching, that we should not pigeonhole our opportunity and image by just throwing a message at people. We should find common ground, and then try to bring them to Christ. Sometimes that takes time and we should have patience. Jesus shared that every person is a like a seed, and some are ready to be harvested but many are not. They need to be watered or replanted in firm, moist soil.

Paul said in I Thessalonians 2:8 that “we did not just give you God’s Good News, but our own lives, too.” How does it make you feel when someone tells what they think you should do compared to when someone relates whatever it is they think you should do with your own life? There’s a difference. It’s called wisdom with understanding.

And then you can enjoy the “it’s blessings” like Paul writes about here. There’s nothing that blesses a person more than helping them find the thing their soul has been craving and looking for their entire lives. Nothing compares with this! It’s like the first time we tasted Jesus—reliving our salvation story all over again. It’s the only way to do that.

Yesterday, I was able to enjoy a newfound friendship and engaging conversations because we could relate to physical oppression. Two of them were follower of Jesus, but one of them wasn’t. And I pray and hope it’s the beginning of a long friendship, the kind that “might bring that person to Christ.”


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