In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about how, though he has personal spiritual freedom, he is willing to lay that freedom down for the sake of others knowing Jesus better. In 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 se goes as far as to say: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” Though the context is that of “Christian liberty” and the role of a stronger and/or weaker conscience, it presents an interesting question.
If Paul is willing take up or lay down his own freedoms for the sake of other people knowing Jesus, how far should we be willing to go to live on mission. If we keep the context simply at liberties as Paul here does, then it simply means that I will not mention that I occasionally partake of beverage alcohol to the glory of God (who gave us wine to gladden the heart according to Psalm 104:15) and I will not force my libertine friends to be teetotalers.
But what about when applied to the broader context of living on mission in the everyday life? If left to my own devices, I would want to live as a missionary to people slightly sarcastic people just like me who like music, grew up skateboarding and who don’t care at all about team sports; much less “professional” sports. But God, because of the great love with which He loved me, placed me in Suburbia. Not the cool suburbia where gentrification has set in and the worn out strip mall has been brought back to life with cool coffee shops and eateries. No, I live in Target, Red Lobster, Chili’s Best Buy, cookie-cutter subdivision suburbia. Don’t worry, if the Red Robin is too crowded there’s another one a mile down the road. And rest assured, there will be a major league sporting event on every TV in every corner of your favorite chain restaurant.
Professional sports is part of American life. And I live as a missionary in an American context. That means, that, though my personal preference would have been to watch Groundhog Day on repeat all day yesterday, we threw a Super Bowl Party. I had to look to find out who was even playing, but I did. And we had a great time. We made a new friend who just moved here and had no plans. We reconnected with an old friend prior to his upcoming wedding. We got to spend some time with one of our missional community family members who is leaving the country soon. And it was all under the pretense of a football game.
Living everyday life with gospel intentionality means investigating and investing in the regular rhythms of the surrounding culture. If they gather around sporting events, then I should probably at least be conversant in said sport. I don’t have to lie to people and say I really care who wins, but I should be willing to sit next to someone for a while who does enjoy football. Living on mission means throwing parties for things you don’t care about. It means trying to learn to put others wants and desires before my own. It means sacrificing time and energy, it means opening our home for an event I really don’t care about. Because I do care about the God who put these people in my path and for the people He has put there.
Just don’t expect me to buy season tickets any time soon.