Scripture: Acts 15:12-21
Key verse: (19) Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God.
Reflection: The early church faced a major dilemma. Jesus and his disciples were Jews. Jesus was the Messiah for whom the Jews had waited and watched. Jesus ministered primarily among Jews. But shortly after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to be witnesses about Jesus all around the world, Gentiles (non-Jews) heard the good news, experienced the gift of the Holy Spirit, and asked to be baptized. Should the Gentiles be included? Could Gentiles be baptized and live as disciples?
So the leaders of the early church held a “council” in Jerusalem.This was the first Session meeting (governing board meeting). Some shared stories about their experiences with Gentiles who believed and wanted to be baptized. Others shared their concerns, believing that the only faithful way to follow Jesus as a disciple was to convert to Judaism (symbolized by circumcision) and live according to the Jewish laws. Finally the group discerned God’s will and made a decision. James announces that decision in the key verse above. The Gentiles would be welcomed into the church without demanding that they convert to Judaism first.
Likely you are a descendant of Gentile Christians so we rejoice that the early church discerned this to be God’s will. Over and over again, the church has faced major dilemmas and has sought to discern God’s will through prayer and conversation. In our own time, we seek God’s will with humility. Let us join together to pray that we might be faithful to God’s will when we face difficult decisions.
Prayer: O God, you push us to welcome those we probably would choose to leave out. Teach us how to discern your will faithfully. When we disagree, transform our debates into prayerful, humble conversations that reflect your love and your grace. Through Christ we pray. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].