One of the things that fascinates me about this period of time – when the early Christians were trying to start a Church by bringing together vastly different groups of people – is that the same issues they faced can be seen time and time again throughout the history of the World.
In this case, one single man died. He was certainly a Jew. But at the same time he preached a different message. He even went so far as to say that the law was not the end-all. His message was Love. Pure and simple. Anyone and everyone were welcome.
This message caused all kinds of problems for the early Church leaders. But they hung in there. If you read Acts 15 and then go back to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), it is clear what Christ was preaching. As Christ said, He was not sent here to abolish the laws, but to fulfill them. The Jews who were becoming Christians in the Book of Acts, were demanding that the Gentiles who were becoming Christians be circumcised and become Jews “in good standing” before they be accepted as Christians. Today’s reading was the apostle’s response to these demands.
There is certainly nothing in Christ’s teachings that said someone first had to be a good Jew in order to be a good Christian. Again, Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t think he meant the men had to be circumcised first.
Paraphrasing James in his response to the demands of the Jews, he explained that we don’t want to make it hard for the Gentiles to become Christians. Christ belongs to them, too. Fast forward a couple of thousand years – isn’t this true today as well? Christ belongs to everyone.
Makes me think a little bit harder about my built-in prejudices…