Wednesday 25 May 2011

Bible Book:

"And after Paul and Barnabas has 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." (v. 2)

Acts 15:1-6 Wednesday 25 May 2011


Here at the very beginning of the Christian faith is an issuethat seems set to divide the fledgling Church. The question iswhether male gentile (non Jewish) believers should be circumcisedin order to become Christians. The writer of Acts (usually thoughtto be Luke) would make a great writer of minutes at church meetings- "no small dissension and debate" is a subtle and diplomatic wayof describing an almighty row! It is clear that some of thebelievers with a strong Jewish heritage, who understand Jesus asthe fulfillment of the law of Israel, believe that this ritual isan important sign of faith and belonging. Others, both Jewish andgentile believers, do not feel this matters - Jesus did not makesuch demands but, in their view, removed all the ritualisticbarriers to a relationship with God.

The Church has by this stage already settled some structures and istherefore able to send Paul, Barnabas and others to Jerusalem todiscuss the matter with the elders and apostles. Here is a sign ofChurch order and discipline!

Christians don't all agree with each other about everything today.The good news within this story is that the Church does not tearitself apart when it resolves, under God, what decision should bemade. We know this because the Christian Church in its many formscontinues today, 2,000 years after this particular threat to churchunity. Some may have chosen to leave the Church after the decisionof the Council, choosing to remain within an orthodox understandingof Judaism, others will have had their hearts and minds changed andchosen to stay and others will have 'won the argument' and are ableto stay because the Church 'fits' their understanding of the waythe Body of Christ should be. Whether it is a question about whoreceives Holy Communion, whether women can be ordained, whether adenomination should have bishops, or the role of people in same sexrelationships - the choices of those early Christians seemrelevant. Some go, some stay having had their views changed, othersremain affirmed and reassured that the Church really is the placefor them.

In the midst of such decisions there is often pain - as those earlybelievers discovered - not everyone will agree all the time. Whatmarks a healthy Christian community is that we are a safe place inwhich to deal honestly and openly with that which divides us andthen to care for all, whatever the outcome of our debates anddecisions.

To Ponder

Is it necessary or possible for Christians toagree all the time? How do we offer a witness to the world whilstnot always being united within ourselves?

Can you remember an occasion within your family,at work or in church when you have supported someone who has beenhurt by a decision that had to be made? What did you do? If you hadto do it again, what might you do differently?

Previous Page Tuesday 24 May 2011
Next Page Thursday 26 May 2011