PEOPLE WHO LISTEN, LEARN, AND LOVE [ACTS 15:7-21]
JAMES, the relative of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-19), did not have an easy job. As leader of the early Church in Jerusalem, he was confronted with the question of whether non-Jewish converts to Christianity should be obliged to follow the Mosaic Law. Many Jewish Christians saw the law as something for Gentiles to embrace along with baptism. Among these, apparently, were some people associated with James (Galatians 2:12). The issue came to a head at a Jerusalem meeting, where both Peter and Paul argued that everyone is saved by grace, not by pursuing a lifestyle of ritual purity (Acts 15:7-12). James was a very devout Jew, but he was willing to listen. Then, persuaded by the apostles’ words, he offered a decision that defended the Gentiles’ liberty and imposed just a few basic requirements.
James was flexible enough to part with his ideas of how the Church should be and to be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit instead. Rather than adhere rigidly to familiar patterns of religious practice and tradition, he reflected on the way God was working among non-Jews. Mind you, James did not throw out all the traditional practices. He carefully discerned what would be appropriate for the new gatherings of Gentile and Jewish believers that were springing up. As a result of his respect for God’s unfolding plan, he came to a solution that resolved conflicts and helped preserve the unity of the primitive Church.
How important it is to listen to one another and, even more, to the Holy Spirit! It’s all too easy to fall in love with our own ideas of what the Church should be. But when we love our ideas so much that they distract us from loving God and one another, we become easy targets for dissension. The result is divisions and factions between denominations and within our Church, communities, families, and intimate relationships.
God wants us to experience deep, joy-filled, and loving unity. Jesus Himself asked the Father to make us one, “as We are one” (John 17:11). God will do it – if only we allow Him to make us people who listen, learn, and love.
Jakarta, 22 May 2014
A Christian Pilgrim