Friday, July 24, 2009

Acts 15:12-21

Acts 15 is a fairly famous section of the Book of Acts where the new church makes a crucial decision: will they just be a sect of Judaism or will this new church be open to Gentiles? Should they be inclusive or exclusive?

That is still a valid question for every church today. Will our church be a group of people who generously give love to each other as well as to those in the larger community? When you look at the actions and teachings of Jesus, there is no doubt how he would want us to act. He demonstrated perfect love in a way no one had ever seen. On more than several occasions, he rebuked the Jewish leaders for being exclusive and, frankly, wrong about God's kingdom. The leadership of the Jewish faith had gotten the message all wrong.

In today's reading, the disciples want to get it right this time. They take their cue from the stories of Barnabas and Paul who had been out in the world preaching the Good News. They had stories of how God was affecting the lives of the Gentiles with "signs and wonders".

It is not insignificant that James was the one who spoke after Barnabas and Paul told their stories. James was highly respected in the new church and he was, by all accounts, conservative in his ideas as to how the new church should behave. When James spoke, everyone listens. There are no accounts in Acts of detrators of James. It is his decision that the new church be inclusive and his belief that this decision is in keeping with the teachings of Moses.

We can take a lesson from James as well. It's not easy, but the message is clear: love like Jesus. Be inclusive. Share God's love with everyone. Just think of what the world would look like if James had made the wrong decision.

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