In this passage, we find a very curious thing. On one hand, Paul was going from city to city to tell the Christians about the council’s decision that the Gentile believers didn’t have to be circumcised. But then he circumcised one of his traveling companions, a man named Timothy. Why?
I believe that if Timothy had been 100% Greek, that is, a full Gentile, Paul would not have let him be circumcised any more than he allowed another man named Titus to be circumcised. (Galatians 2:3). As a full Gentile, it’s likely his main ministry would have been to fellow Gentiles, not Jews.
But Timothy was already a half-Jew who was also trying to reach out to the Jewish community. And unfortunately, there was no way the Jewish community would have accepted him if, being a Jew, he was not circumcised. And so in order to be an effective witness to them, he allowed himself to be circumcised.
Paul put it this way,
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law…I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. (I Corinthians 9:20, 22)
What does this mean for us? Do what you can to identify with the people you’re reaching out to. If people can’t identify with you, they will not listen to anything you have to say.
Here in Japan as a missionary, that means learning the language, the culture, and how people think.
But even if you’re reaching out to people in your own country, you need to learn how they think, what they enjoy, and how they live. And do what you can to meet them where they are.
Maybe you’re a really outgoing person that loves huge crowds. But if they’re the type that’s really uncomfortable with a lot of people, it’s not wise to throw them into a huge church event where they have to interact with a lot of people. Rather, it’s better to spend one on one time with them.
Maybe you’re not so into sports. But if they invite you to watch or play a game with them, join them in their world for a few hours.
In short, for the sake of the gospel, learn to identify with those around you. That’s what Timothy did, and that’s what Paul did.
How about you? Who has God put in your life? And what can you do to identify with them so that some might be saved?