16 If I preach the gospel, I have no reason to brag, since I’m obligated to do it. I’m in trouble if I don’t preach the gospel.(1 Cor. 9:16, CEB)
16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16, NIV)
16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16, ESV)
The supposed freedom we may think we have in the gospel is indeed freedom, but it is a freedom binding us to a new “obligation.” The gospel of Jesus Christ turns all our definitions upside down.
Any sense of “obligation” we have in our lives today we tend to run from like it was the plague.
Any sense of “freedom” we think we may have, we sometimes viciously fight for that sense of “freedom,” only to find it has a steep price after all.
But in the Kingdom, the freedom of Christ has a sense of duty. It is a sense of call. It is the duty of proclamation. And it is not just proclamation in some way that WE feel “comfortable” with. It is the proclamation of the gospel in such a way that we work hard to make sure the gospel is communicated clearly to our audience.
For Paul, it meant that even with tremendous “freedoms” he felt no qualms about being “all things to all people so as to win some.” He wanted Jews to understand without too many barriers. He wanted Gentiles to understand without too many barriers.
That’s just hard work. Why? He was compelled. He had an obligation. Yet, it was a beautiful obligation. It was a longing for all to understand the freedom he found in Christ.
As Christians we give up “freedoms” and “privileges” at times because we want to be able to communicate as clearly as possible the beautiful message of freedom in Christ. It is not “losing” in the Kingdom. It may seem like “losing” to everyone around us, but it is not losing at all. When other find freedom in Christ, gain happens. We all win.