Common ground

Cross at sunset

By Tom Wiles | For The Times-Post

“When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” I Corinthians 9:11-27

In describing the mountains of Alaska, I’ve told people that no matter how many times we drove on the same road we saw different mountains every time.

The view was changed by the location of the sun, the clarity of the sky as well as the direction we were headed. Different shadows. Different depths. Different reflections.

And yet, always the same mountain.

This reality caused the same mountain to continually captivate us and to hold our attention. We usually expressed our enthusiasm with a “Wow, look at that!” or an awed silence.

Paul, who started the church in ancient Corinth, wrote letters to them to both encourage and challenge them in their new found faith in Jesus.

In this particular letter, he addressed many issues that had begun to distract them from the main message — the Good News about Jesus.

Jesus came to make us right with God. He died for our sins, was buried and raised again on the third day uniquely positioned to rescue any who would believe in him.

Paul told this church that he was constantly trying to find common ground with people. Different approaches. Different language. Different behavior. And yet, always the same message.

Our natural reaction when we interact with people is to immediately identify every way in which we are different from them; the way they look, the way they talk, the way they act, etc. is measured against our own self-understanding and a determination is made as to whether or not we would ever want to interact with them again.

It happens so fast and normally outside of our awareness.

We are constantly challenged by God in the Bible to forego our natural inclinations.

They are warped by sin.

Paul challenges us, with God’s help, to identify and even create common ground with people.

Why? If there is no common ground upon which to stand with someone, there will be no opportunity of sharing with them the Good News about Jesus.

Most important

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. — I Corinthians 15

As the electrical wiring instructional video began, big letters appeared on the screen.

“Warning!! Be sure all power is turned off at the circuit breaker before continuing with video.”

After making sure the power was turned off, I un-paused the video.

The first words from the person giving the instructions were, “Make sure all power is turned off before continuing.”

Clearly, the most important thing from their perspective was to keep people like me from electrocuting myself!

As Paul was writing his letter, he was building up to that which was “most important.”

He then proceeded to repeat the message that he first presented to them when he first met them.

Jesus died for your sins. He was buried. He raised back to life three days later. He was seen by many people.

He goes on to tell them that their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is useless if he didn’t rise from the dead. No resurrection. No hope.

That sounds pretty important!

As a matter of fact, it’s most important. People who believe in Jesus are not believing a philosophy or a religion. They are believing in a historical person — Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to be the Son of God, the promised Jewish Messiah and the one and only way to God.

Big claims for sure. However, he backed it up by raising himself from the dead.

Important? Yep, most important. Our place in heaven depends on it.

Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.