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1Corinthians  ◦   Chapter 9

1Yet I am still free–free to love as Christ loves. Am I not an ambassador for Christ? Have I not seen our Lord Jesus and been instructed by Him? Is not the healing occurring in your very own lives a result of my ministering God's love and truth to you?2Even though I may not be Christ's ambassador to others, I certainly am to you! Your changed lives and commitment to Christ are the evidence that I am an ambassador for the Lord.

3To those who criticize me, I say:4Isn't it in harmony with God's methods to receive food and drink?5Isn’t it right to travel with one’s Christian spouse, just like some other ambassadors and brothers of the Lord do, including Peter?6Or should Barnabas and I be cut off from the loving support of church members and be required to earn our own way?

7Doesn't a soldier give of themself to protect their country and receive the support of their government? Doesn't a gardener give their time and energy in planting and tending the garden, and then eat of the fruit of that garden? Doesn't the shepherd give of themself to watch over the flock and then drink of the milk?8This is not merely a human point of view or idea, but an expression of God's law of love. Everything — as God designed it — gives freely to another.9It is even written in the Law of Moses: "Do not stop the ox from eating while it treads the grain." Is God concerned only with oxen?10Of course not! This was written for us. When the farmer gives of themself to plant and harvest their fields, they do so understanding God's law of love, that when we give of ourselves, we receive a blessing in return. Thus the farmer receives back a share of the harvest.11If we have planted seeds of love and truth into your hearts, it is completely natural — and in keeping with God's law of love — that we receive your loving sustenance.12Others have received your support; shouldn't love motivate you to support us even more? Yet we have never sought to get anything from you, as we would much rather give of ourselves — and tolerate injury — in order to bless you with the good news about God as revealed in Jesus.

13Don't you realize that the temple service symbolically reveals God's kingdom of love? Those who give of themselves to serve there receive from the temple their food, and those who serve at the altar receive nourishment from what is offered on the altar.14This is how the Lord has constructed his universe to run–on the law of giving, on the principle of love–so that those who spread the Remedy for sin and selfishness receive their support from those who are healed by receiving that Remedy.

15But I have not received my sustenance from those who have received the Remedy of Christ. And I am not writing now in order to get you to give me anything, for I would rather die than do anything that could possibly suggest a selfish motive and thus misrepresent God and his kingdom of love.16When I am spreading the Remedy to sin and selfishness, I cannot brag or take credit; for having partaken of the Remedy myself, I can do nothing other than spread the good news of this cure to others. How horrible if I didn't spread the good news of God's Remedy to sin!17If I became a preacher as a vocation, then I could expect to get paid, but what I do is not simply a job, but a sacred trust that my heart passionately burns to carry out.18What do I get out of it? I get the joy of not being a burden to anyone, and of knowing that I present God's Remedy to sin freely, without charge, without any strings attached.

19Although I am free and not required to live by the rules of others, I freely choose to identify with everyone's plight and become a servant to all in order to inoculate as many as possible with the Remedy to sin and selfishness.20When I am with Jews, I respect their customs and traditions in order not to offend, so their hearts may open to be inoculated with the Remedy of Christ. When I am with legalists, who adhere to many rules, I respect their rules (even though I know they provide no remedy to sin), in order not to offend, so that their hearts may be opened and inoculated with the Remedy of Christ.21When I am with those who don't know about God's law of love or his methods that heal, I respect their customs and don't act in ways that will make them feel inferior or condemned (but I continue to live in harmony with God's law of love as revealed in Christ), in order not to offend so their hearts may be opened and inoculated with the Remedy from God as revealed in Christ.22As to the weak in faith–I empathize with their weakness in order to win them to the truth about God as revealed in Christ. I meet all people where they are, in order to open their hearts to the Remedy Christ has procured, and thereby save as many as possible.23I do this for God and his kingdom of love as one who is renewed and empowered by that love.

24Don't you realize that in a race, even though all the athletes run, only one wins the race and gets the prize? Not so in God's kingdom–all who run may win the prize! So run the race in harmony with God's methods of love in order to receive the prize of reunion with God.25Olympic athletes spend years in rigorous training. They work hard for a crown that will not last; but we do it to be crowned with the mind of Christ, which will last forever.26Therefore I run hard, with the purpose to win. I don't shadowbox.27No! I fight against self, surrendering my will to Christ, and I establish reason in governance of my selfish desires, so that after having shared the Remedy with others, I will not be overcome by a resurgence of selfishness and lose the prized unity with God.