"I have become all things to all people,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, apparently not foreseeing how we would regard his wry boast. Today his efforts to ingratiate himself with very different people sound inauthentic, phony—and impossible. “You can’t be all things to all people,” is how one of my seminary professors put it.
But Paul, the devout Jew who remarkably became a missionary to the gentiles, didn’t see it that way. As he met gentiles and sampled their customs, their food, their drink, he remained entirely himself. More himself than ever. Peter, too, delicately refused to try the crawfish and andouille sausage until he had a dream about unclean animals being brought down from heaven on a tablecloth. Then he knew that it was OK to eat with the gentiles, that he could sit down with them and still be Peter, a very Jewish Christian. “The Spirit told me to go with them, and not to make a distinction between them and us,” he said.