A Daily Dose of Good News
Monday, August 17, 2020
Good morning! It is August 17 and it’s time for our Daily Dose of Good News- which is from Acts 15:1-21. So, I’d suggest you get your coffee…
Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,
‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;
from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up,
so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—
even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.
Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’
Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”
Here ends the reading.
So, what is this text about? And why is this important? This text is about how the disciples have become apostles and left Jerusalem and gone into the wider world in order to preach about Jesus to the Gentiles. So, the ministry is getting expanded. In that, as these who were part of the Jewish race and religion and culture, come into contact with these Gentiles, one of the requirements of the Jewish faith was to be circumcised. God had called the Jewish people His chosen people. So, the Jewish people, these apostles, are determining, ‘well, these Gentiles, then, in order to follow this faith of Jesus Christ, they need to be circumcised too. That was our requirement originally. So they need to do that too. That’s the Law of Moses. The Gentiles need to follow that’.
Well, the Gentiles come from a different space and place and history. They haven’t been raised with all the Jewish tradition. So, the Law of Moses is something new to them, unfamiliar to them, and some of them don’t want to get circumcised. Understandably so, it’s quite a procedure. So, there’s struggle and tension on who’s in this “in-group”? Who is in God’s favor or in relationship with God? Who is in God’s “in-crowd”? So, there’s all this debate of who’s in the “in-crowd” and who’s in the “out-crowd”, who’s right and who’s wrong? I like how, more than once, it says “it’s not a small amount of debate”. “It was no small dissension”. They’re arguing! I think our world resonates with that. There is a lot of arguing right now, or who’s in the “in-group” and who’s in the “out-group”, and who’s right on how they think about things and who’s wrong on how they think about things. I appreciate that there is discussion and debate and argument. It’s not about being voiceless or not sharing your point of view, or why you think what you do. But, what the disciples say in this, as they address each other, every time… They start with: “Brothers”. They start with sibling relationship, they start with connectivity. Trying to remind, probably themselves and each other: ‘We’re in this together. We’re family. We’re connected. Let’s remember that connection, even in the midst of arguing’. I think that can resonate for us in our personal lives, as well. Because we are going to argue with our siblings, or children, or friends, or coworkers, or whomever. And, sure, have the debate, have the discussion. Tell someone how you feel and where you agree or disagree with them. But don’t overlook the fact that there is connectivity among us and that we call each other brothers and sisters in Christ. Peter says it so well, when he says: “We believe we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will”. So I think that’s a challenge for us, to think of any group that you disagree wholeheartedly with, that you would debate and argue with significantly. Not a small matter of debate or discussion. Think of those groups and think about can you remember that you’re brothers and sisters in Christ. You might disagree, ok. But can you stay in the grace and connectivity with one another? Can we do that? In our congregation? Can we do that? With our families? I’m not saying that it’s easy. But I’m saying, the apostles called us to do that. They were pretty good at hearing God. I think God calls all of us to do that. So, you don’t have to agree with everything, that’s ok, and it’s ok to voice it. Try to remain in the grace of God who loves them and us, who sees us as connected, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hang in there. Have a great day. We’re praying for all of you- particularly as many of you start school this week. Take care. God’s peace. Bye-bye.