Acts 15:1-21; Joshua 23-24; Job 32
Ah, the mystique of the early church. How many times have we heard people say something like, “If only we could go back to the days of the early church….” The belief, of course, being that the early church was so close to Jesus that they were practically perfect. There were no disputes and everyone loved each other in this mythical church. Yet we saw complaints of discrimination in Acts 6. We saw other concerns throughout the book of Acts. One of the most important issues to settle was when followers of Christ who had been raised as Pharisees sought to make sure that the new followers of Jesus who had been raised as Gentiles needed to become Jews first. This was a major problem, if you really think about it, because one of the reasons Jesus came was to restore the relationship between God and His people, the Jews, who weren’t able to live by the Law of Moses! Paul set them straight. “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:10-11) As the debate went on the early church worked to remove obstacles to fellowship with Gentile believers. Requirements included avoiding meat offered to idols, abstaining from sexual immorality, and eating meat that hadn’t been prepared properly. In short, as Christians we are to avoid intermingling with other faiths, and live pure and healthy lives. Perhaps we do need to remember that message of the early church as we see so-called followers of Christ today who intermingle other belief systems into their lives, embrace sexual immorality and have no concept of our bodies and nature living in harmony. (I tend to fail on that last one.) Our responsibility is not to embrace obstacles to faith; we are to embrace others who turn to Jesus and teach them God’s way lovingly.
Lord God, how easily I would put my own judgmental attitudes towards others in front of Your grace. Help me to embrace others as they turn to You. Let me love them with Your love. Help me to teach them Your ways even as You continue to teach me. Help us all to grow together.