ALL GOD ASKS IS THAT WE BELIEVE IN THE FREE GIFT OF HIS LOVE [ACTS 15:1-6]
According to Jewish custom, Jews did not invite Gentiles into their homes or visit in the homes of Gentiles. Though Jews lived among Gentiles and met with them freely in the public square, they did not socialize with them, because non-Jews did not follow the rules for ritual purity in the law of Moses. This presented a real problem for the early Church, which was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. How could they worship together or share in the Lord’s table or associate with each other as members of one community?
At Antioch, many Gentiles had become Christians. Then some Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem teaching that unity could occur only if the non-Jewish Christians became Jews. Paul strongly opposed this view, because he saw that it counted the grace of Christ less important that the Mosaic law for relationship with God.
This controversy may seem old and irrelevant to us. Yet the news that God freely sets us right with Himself through faith in Jesus is just as earth-shattering today as it was two thousand years ago. The fact that Almighty God would forgive all our sins simply because His Son died for us is an astonishing mystery. We are tempted to add something of our own, to offer some penance to persuade God to be reconciled with us. But the good news is that God has done everything necessary to reconcile us with Himself out of His limitless graciousness and favor toward us. All He asks is that we believe in the free gift of His love.
While we must struggle against sin, our strongest battle is one of faith: Will we rely on what Jesus has done for us on Calvary? Can we believe that, on the cross, Jesus dealt a death blow to everything that would stand between us and God? We do not have to persuade God to have mercy on us. If we were to try to merit God’s favor, we would diminish what Christ did for us on the cross. Instead, let us ask the Holy Spirit to expand our experience of God’s mercy. Let us ask Him to melt our hearts and move us to lay our sins before Him.
Jakarta, 21 May 2014
A Christian Pilgrim