“We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
When it comes to sharing the Gospel with the world around us, our goal should be to make certain that the only offensive thing about us is our message, the Gospel itself. Everything else about us should be a gigantic yes to the world. Or, as Paul puts it here, we commend ourselves in every way.
The direction and emphasis here is important. Some folks will argue that the way to make ourselves inoffensive to others in our witness is to not offer any moral condemnation of them regardless of how they happen to be living. We need to loosen the repressive moral demands of the Scriptures and find ways to view them through the lens of our culture so that people who aren’t already part of the church will find us acceptable.
This, however, is never what Paul did. He presented the Gospel in full strength and let it be what it was. Where it called people away from the lifestyle they were living or who they thought they “really” were, he let it. Where it offered condemnation of some behavioral choices, he didn’t soften the blows. What he did do, though, was to make himself as inoffensive as possible. He made sure he presented himself as someone worth knowing and following regardless of the circumstances he happened to be in.
When his circumstances were hard, he was righteous. And look at some of what he faced here. He endured all manner of pain and persecution and suffering with patience and grace so that the Gospel might shine through his life. Yet the Gospel can only shine through us when we keep the windows clear and clean. This means no unrighteousness can be a part of our patterns. The world should see us not as holy rollers, but as holy.
Pakistan recently and for the first time ever honored a Christian woman who died with a state funeral and by flying the national flag at half mast. Why did this Muslim-majority nation with many radical and anti-Christian elements do this? Because Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German missionary who dedicated over 50 years of her life to loving the Pakistani people by fighting the scourge of leprosy, did exactly what Paul talks about here. Check out some of her incredible story here and Google her for more of it.
She used the weapons of righteousness to battle the evil of this world that happened to be manifesting itself in the form of leprosy. She was an imposter in a foreign land, and yet she was true in her aim and was eventually made a citizen for her efforts. She was unknown, yet in her efforts to make the Gospel known, became well-known herself. And then she turned her acclaim back around toward the Gospel. She was poor, but made the people around her richer. In other words, she commended herself in every way.
This is our goal. We may not be called to do it in Pakistan for the full extent of our lives, but we are called to do it where we are. How can you commend yourself to the people around you for the sake of the Gospel?