Acts 15 shares about a very basic clarifying decision for those early Christians and that challenges us even today as the United States is again a real melting pot of cultures and hence expressions of Christianity. We have the advantage of centuries but the early Christians saw themselves as a new expression of Judaism, or were they, as they had to deal with absorbing Gentile believers. It seems like each generation has to decide how to worship as traditions of elders clash with new music, new dress and new ethnicities becoming part of the Church, big C ie the church universal, not our corner structure.
Paul and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem to headquarters to meet with Peter, “the disciples and the elders.” We call it the Jerusalem Council. They wanted to hammer out what is core to Christianity. Is it grace or race? Interestingly the leaders were able to boil down their behavioral expectations of Gentiles to four guidelines: don’t eat food sacrificed to idols, don’t drink blood, don’t eat strangled animals and avoid sexual immorality. No rules about circumcision. No creeds. No order of worship. The dietary rules recognized that life lies in the blood and that our habits are testimonies and perhaps stumbling blocks to others. Today we boil our faith down to “love the Lord your God with you whole heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”
So what is core to me today? Who do I think the church is for? Do I see it like an incubator for growing people in faith or do I see it like a hospital that deals with all sick? An incubator probably is protective and more programed. A hospital has more open doors and specialties to deal with all sorts of challenges. Also core to the text is the call to us to consider how our behavior impacts others. Are we so busy defending ourselves that we become defensive and offensive? Oh dear, tough questions. As we reflect on whom we feel the church is for, may we pray for the mind of Christ and for the flexibility to deal with the challenges of our day! Blessings for you are part of the Church, big C!