Have you ever seen yourself as a model? Not a magazine model but a role model.
Fathers know they are role models.
Mothers, too, and grandparents.
Teachers and coaches have a sense of their influence in the lives of their students and players.
What we discover in our passage is that every Christian is a role model in how we represent Jesus to the world.
In this sense, we are all missionaries, sent by God to live in our own sphere of influence, making a difference by how we live our ordinary lives.
We are all missionaries, sent by God to live in our own sphere of influence, making a difference by how we live our ordinary lives.
One way we missionally reflect Jesus is by living a life that seeks to do good to others--to bless them. To help them. To make their lives better. Often, the call is to show mercy to them by sacrificing ourselves.
Some call this “deed” evangelism. What we do testifies to what Jesus has done.
This is much easier said than done.
Because the principle of living for the good of others is totally counter-intuitive—backwards to the way we naturally function (unless you are a mother!).
If you are like me, then you tend to be the one seeking to be the recipient of good.
I prefer to get a good deal rather than give a good deal.
In our passage, Paul makes a big deal about this “role model” principle.
His primary concern is missional. Paul knows that, if you are a disciple of Jesus, people are watching to see what you will say and how you will act in all kinds of circumstances. Our neighbors are watching. Our children are watching.
Paul’s concern is not that we live with an aura of holier than thou-ness. He concern is that we accurately represent the truth of the gospel as we live as recipients of grace from the King of glory.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 we learn three lessons about how receiving grace results in doing good by showing mercy.
The first lesson is that...
1. Just because I can do something doesn't mean that I should do it.
23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
Paul is addressing Christians who are using grace to excuse what we might call unwise behavior.
If challenged, they would be quick to claim that in Christ they are free from the condemnation of the law. No one can judge them because they are under grace.
Paul would heartily agree! They are under grace and free from judgement. No doubt.
But that doesn’t mean that actions do not have consequences.
I can stay up playing video games until 3:00 am every night and still be saved, right? But that doesn’t mean that is good for me. Not everything is equally beneficial and constructive.
There are lots of things that are legal that are harmful.
Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should do it.
This is not only true for how it affects me but for how my actions affect others, which leads to the second lesson for being a role model.
2. I should consider how my actions may affect other people.
Look at verse 24, where Paul begins with a general principle.
24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.
You may remember from a previous study in our series that practically all meat sold in public markets in ancient Corinth previously had been sacrificed in the context of a pagan religious ceremony.
Paul had previously stated, and reaffirms his position, that a believer is free to eat meat purchased in the market, even if it had been part of a pagan religious ceremony.
In other words, meat is just meat. It was not contaminated nor was it indwelt by or to be associated with a false god.
Yet for the sake of mission--for the sake of how our actions affect others--Paul notes an exception to the rule starting in verse 28.
28 However, if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience?30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?
Can you see what Paul is doing here?
The issue is not the meat itself. The issue is how an unbeliever would interpret the believer’s actions.
The Christian is free to eat the meat. But in this context, the unbeliever very well may get the wrong impression, thinking that to be a follower of Jesus is no different than worshipping the pantheon of Roman gods.
By the Christian’s consumption of sacrificed meat, the believer may be communicating to his host that Jesus is just one of many options, not an exclusive Savior and Lord. Not the only way to be reconciled with God.
The application here isn’t about eating meat. It is about what my life is communicating about Jesus.
As Jesus was willing to sacrifice for my good, am I willing to sacrifice for someone else’s good--even if it means sacrificing my own freedom?
How else can we justify turning down a juicy filet.
Remember the principle: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
This really is counter-intuitive.
For example, after our services on Sundays, it is so easy for me to gravitate to my comfort zone--to people I already know well. It is not a natural thing for an introvert like myself to seek out those standing alone.
In that moment, what would it look like for me to not seek my own good but the good of someone else on a Sunday morning?
I don’t have to speak to a newcomer after a service on a Sunday morning in order to be justified. I can huddle with my comfort zone.
But just like Jesus was willing to leave his comfort zone of heaven to us good on earth, grace moves us out of our comfort zones to do good--with intentionality, on purpose.
Just like Jesus was willing to leave his comfort zone of heaven to us good on earth, grace moves us out of our comfort zones to do good in the lives of others.
But in order to be propelled by the grace of God...
3. I must become captivated with the glory of God.
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please [bless?] everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
What does it mean to “do it all for the glory of God?”
A clue may be found in the Old Testament Hebrew word for glory, kabod, which conveys a sense of weightiness, as in heaviness.
Kabod even sounds heavy!
Other words used to describe the concept of glory include grandeur, majesty, and honor.
Therefore, to do something for the “glory of God,” is to do whatever it is with reference the greatness of God and the grace of God.
Donald Barnhouse, the long-time pastor for 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, was know to say that “God’s greatest glory is his grace.” In a similar way, we could say that to glorify God is to magnify his mercy.
This magnification of mercy is not only what we need, it is what our children need and what the folks at our workplace need. Mercy is what liberals need and what conservatives need. Mercy is what abortionists need and what Pharisees need. Mercy is what I need.
When I really believe that, it will turn me into a genuine gospel role model--a role model of mercy for a sphere of influence that desperately needs mercy, not the least of which live in our own homes.
The Glory of Creation and Redemption
During the total solar eclipse that swept across the United States on August 21, 2017, footage of WGN Chicago's Lead Meteorologist, Tom Skilling, went viral around the internet because of the 65-year-old’s emotional response to the event.
Watching the eclipse from a lakefront in Illinois that was in the heart of “the path of totality,” his camera crew focused one camera on the moon passing in front of the sun, but had a second camera on Tom Skilling. Overcome with tearful emotion, with hands raised in awe, he repeated over and over, "Look at that. Look at that. Wow."
When asked about his response, Skilling said, “It (just) snuck up on me… I was overwhelmed by the enormity of it.”
If a weatherman can be emotionally undone by the enormity of a solar eclipse, how much more a sinner by the magnitude of the cross?
God’s creation is a glory. But his redemption is an even greater glory where Jesus, magnifying the mercy of God, puts himself in the path of judgment’s totality, experiencing the fullness of sin so that we can receive the fullness of grace.
It is only when I receive the fullness of this grace that I will be empowered as a role model of mercy.
I can’t give what I don’t have.
So, how to I get it? How to I receive God’s mercy?
Ask. Just ask.
Jesus told a story about a sinner who goes to the Temple and becomes overwhelmed by his sinfulness. He cries out to heaven in prayer, asking, “Have mercy on me, O God, the sinner!”
He just asks.
What does Jesus say about that man? That he went home justified. Forgiven. Clean. Righteous.
You see, grace flows downhill. Not to those who deserve it or can earn it, but to those who can’t. To those who need it and know they need it.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by your need for mercy, just ask, and then be overwhelmed by God’s gift of mercy.
This is how we begin to be role models of mercy who do good to those, who like us, don’t deserve it. Because mercy is not deserved. It is the grace that changes everything.