Sunday, January 24, 2021

I Corinthians 9.16-23: Marketing Jesus

Every marketing website, consultant, handbook, and tip sheet will tell you: Know your own message. Know your own audience. You can't be all things to all people. Apparently no one told Paul. Or Jesus. Because Paul, talking about his calling to preach the gospel, says (or writes) out loud, "I have become all things to all people." (I Corinthians 9:22). 

Wow. No pressure. And to be honest, I don't know that Paul really was all things to all people, though he could certainly reach out to particular audiences because of his own experiences. He could talk about being a Jew. He could talk about being outside the law (now). He could talk about being inside the law, actually. But all things to all people? I think Paul might have been optimistic. 

Jesus is another story. The history of art has shown us that Jesus can, pretty much, be all things to all people. Books like Jaroslav Pelikan's Jesus Through the Centuries show us that Jesus has been rabbi, king, monk, sufferer, prince, poet, liberator, and more. Jesus has been triumphant and tragic, universal and particular. All things. Jesus has been perceived (and depicted) as "like us" by all the "us-es" with a pictorial tradition. 

And it hasn't stopped. We continue to find the Jesus we need: Jesus who stands up for the oppressed, Jesus who can love the unloveable. Jesus who bridges gaps, even gaps we didn't know we had. That's the miracle of the gospel. Humans may be (are) wiser not to try to be all things to all people, but Jesus isn't as limited as we are. That's good news.

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