Have you ever gone to a party thinking it was a casual get together only to find that everyone has arrived in formal attire? Have you ever been to a wedding thinking it was formal, only to discover that everyone was wearing casual clothes? How did you feel in those experiences? It’s a pretty uncomfortable feeling, isn’t it? It’s sort of how the gentile Christians of Syrian Antioch must have felt when, while they were all stoked at embracing salvation through Christ, some people came telling them that they were still not dressed right for the occasion – that their failure to keep the Law of Moses was making them conspicuous outsiders.
That is the stage on which our text for this week (Acts 15:22-35) is set.
The Jerusalem counsel decided that it wasn’t right to lay a further burden on the gentile church of keeping the law – so they drafted a letter to explain that, but instead of just emailing it to Antioch or sending an emoji text to explain things….they sent personal delegates from their church to confirm the acceptance of the gentiles. How do you think it must have felt for the gentiles in Antioch to get this news personally? Considering what a huge deal it was for Peter to even go into a gentile’s house (Acts 10), what message was this sending to them? What can we learn from this model about how love is to be expressed on a community level?
V28 indicates that this loving desire for harmony between very different churches was inspired…by Whom? Harmony in the face of disagreements is something that doesn’t just occur spontaneously, it has to be orchestrated (It’s interesting that you never read bumper stickers that say “harmony happens”). Spirit-led love will still hold fast to the truth (v24) but will seek harmony in the process. That is what rescues our expression of love from shallow sentimentalism or emotional groupthink. How can we cooperate with the Holy Spirit when we are confronted with disagreements in the community?
In v 31-32, what word is repeated twice? Between v31-33, what words are used to describe the nature and effect of this mission of reconciliation and harmony? What should we look for in evaluating our own ministries within the church community? How does this provide an example of a loving ministry?
Hope you’re enjoying the Book of Acts as much as I have been! – See you Sunday!