Who am I as a Christian? Am I a Conservative Christian? Blessed (materially) Christian? American Christian? Bible Believing Christian? Family first Christian?
Paul in his Letter to the church at Corinth provides some insight into the approach he took when preaching to this wealthy, hedonistic, and idolatrous merchant city.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV
Paul could have come as an orator with lofty speech. Certainly he was trained to be that. In fact that is how Paul approached the people of Athens and their stoic philosophers (Acts 17). Paul is the intellectual elite of his day. He has all the privilege of the ruling class and the discipline to be successful at it.
If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 ESV
What confidence do I as a Christian today have in the flesh? I am wealthy (relatively speaking). I never hunger because food is not available or too expensive. Income is possible for me through several avenues even though the economy is not that great. I have the right to defend myself and my home, but I live in a low crime area where the government has provided reasonable law and order (relatively speaking). Basically I can live without fear of those around me. It is no effort or sacrifice to be Christian daily in my community (however I notice some isolated individuals who have lost their job or business because of Christ). I have much to be confident in the flesh. I am highly educated and believe myself to be above average intelligence. Is there anything I can’t do if I put my mind and labor to it? Can I set aside all of that to be a Christian who knows only Christ?
Paul comes not with self-help and categories of Christian. He does not come and divide the people into groups based on the color of their skin, how blessed they have been, or if they work harder than everyone else. He sets all that aside and says he has come to know nothing before them but Christ crucified. Did you follow all of God’s rules? Great. Did live a life of selfish pleasure? Fine, but now come together and see that we are all are dying not living because this world will end. Christ and Christ Crucified alone brings life to these petty identifiers and the short life on Earth.
Maybe you know someone who talks about Jesus too much? Are they annoying and unbearable? Maybe they are or maybe you are seeking the approval and pleasure of this world a little too much? Maybe someone calling you Christian with no other identifier is just unbearable? If God tells you that being black is of no consequence and to leave that heritage behind could you do it? If he tells you to walk away from the gay life style because Christ first is more important would you pause to even consider? What if God called you to walk away from the grievance of “white genocide” and not be concerned with maintaining the “white race”? Could you know nothing but Christ Crucified? Is it possible to walk away from being a Republican or a Democrat and be simply Christian? If Christ called could Tiger Woods walk away from golf? The answer is yes because Paul did just that. If you are saved by Christ then life is where he calls and draws us. What Hillary calls irredeemable and Romney calls the 47% can become children of the King before Christ. Paul walked away from the Jewish and Roman privilege he had enjoyed all his life. God changed his name from Saul to Paul and he became a suffering servant called by God to speak the gospel of Christ. Why did Paul give up all of his strength and approach the Corinthians so humbly?
5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV
Paul the intellectual elite with wealth and power could have written books and done all the talk shows extoling his strategies for being perfect at anything in this life. But he did not do this in the city of Corinth. He wanted the Corinthians to be persuaded that faith, power, and wisdom comes only from who they are in Christ. Power comes from God and God alone. Power of the flesh no matter how privileged or educated is weakness in service to God.
When I was saved a miracle happened. The Creator God of the universe intervened in my march to eternal death and gave me new life in Christ. I was nothing and had no ambitions. Raised in a single parent home I had the freedom to be a deviant in all kinds of criminal ways. I had the freedom to fail out of school. I had the desire and the ability to be selfishly depraved and would have been content to be hidden away with nothing. Christ has called me into the public. He has acted in me to lead others. He pulls me out of my selfishness to serve him in ways that are beyond my natural ability or desire. It is supernatural and it is a faith that rests not in me, my heritage, my country, or my politics but in the power of God.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to place Christ and his priorities first. Paul wanted them to humbly submit to God and like Christ who has gone before choose the plans of God. Father I pray “not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV)
Then once we have humbly submitted to God and forsaken the identifiers and the wisdom of this temporary age Christ is able to live through us in the power of God. Paul becomes one of the most influential figures in all of history because Christ lives through him. Countless others throughout history have impacted world in a positive way that points to Christ because they gave up their own ambitions and their own identifiers and recognized them for what they are. Tools and things of this world to be used in service to Christ.