Acts 15: 28
“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.”
In Acts, we follow the early beginnings of a Christian community. There were Jews like Jesus. There were Christian Jews. Acts 15 is all about a third category: the gentiles. The controversy is over requiring gentiles to subscribe to Jewish ritual and law. Hebrew Christians held the Pharisaic view that converts must obey the dietary laws and undergo circumcision. The Bible says that some men came down from Judea to Antioch and started teaching the brethren that unless they were circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved. Paul and Barnabas try and dispute this position but agree to go to Jerusalem to visit with the Apostles and the elders to sort out this problem. When they get to Jerusalem, some Pharisees again said the gentiles must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.
When the Apostles and elders were gathered together, Peter speaks: “Brethren, you know that in the early days, God made choice among you, that by mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.” Acts 15: 7-9. Paul and Barnabas talk about all the wonderful things that God had done through them among the Gentiles. So in the end, a delegation is sent to Antioch with a letter. It’s a compromise position: no circumcision, but in order to avoid giving offense to the Jews in the community, don’t do certain things. Stay away from idols, abstain from fornication, and don’t eat meat with blood in it.
For me, this time of life feels a lot like the early church. On some level, due to the corona virus, things have gotten very simple. We feel much more connected to our neighbors through the commonality of a shared experience. Only the necessary things matter. We have done without our church building. We have been unable to convene. Hurdles, much like the early church faced and found a way through. In spite of today’s hurdles, our faith is always seeking ways to express itself. Like Paul and Barnabas, we feel a need to get the Word out. Now the Holy Spirit is moving our church to reach out in new ways: ZOOM meetings, services posted on Facebook, eblasts via email and the like. What is God telling us about our church in the year 2020? It is still all about faith.
Bluette Blinoff, EfM, year 3