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Faith in Action: A Church United

This week’s readings begin and end with stories about Jesus’ followers disagreeing about whether or not Gentiles could receive God’s grace without being circumcised (becoming Jewish). As I read through this week’s readings, I am struck by the fact that this challenge the early church faced is not that unlike challenges we face today. This issue of whether or not “God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) is an important issue.  I would venture to guess that most of us, if not all, are not Jewish; so it rather essential for us, in fact.

Thankfully (spoiler alert for those of you who have not yet read chapter 15), the Church in its collective wisdom as guided by the Holy Spirit agreed that God’s grace is a gift to all. This isn’t an issue we really find ourselves debating today, but it does seem as though Christians are constantly at odds with one another. Around every turn we seem to divide ourselves over issues of who is and who is not REALLY included in the family of God. We call each other heretics over beliefs about women in ministry, homosexuality, political affiliations, and even the existence of dinosaurs. 

Jesus, not Abraham Lincoln, gets the credit for the original quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:24, or Luke 11:17). This is wisdom, however, that it seems hard for us to abide by. Maybe it’s pride – a need to prove we are right – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a sense of justice – a desire to not leave anyone out of God’s kingdom – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a sense of righteousness – a passion for making sure that all of God’s people are living in ways that are consistent with God’s desire for us – that leads us to fight. Maybe it’s a fear of scarcity – a fear that there might not be enough grace for us if anyone can be included – that leads us to fight. Or maybe it’s something else.

We should always seek the truth and stand up for it. The questions of how, when, where, and even why to stand up for the truth are ones we should continue to ask ourselves, though. Should we stand up for the truth by forwarding emails, posting on social media, or covering our cars in bumper stickers? Should we only stand up for the truth in private conversations? Should we leverage any power or position we might have to stand up for the truth? Do we stand up for the truth because we need others to know we are right or because we want others to know the grace of God?

There are so many questions to ask as we determine how we stand up for the truth, especially in the face of other believers.  Jesus’ early followers gathered together to hear from one another and to share the stories of God at work. They relied on the wisdom of those they trusted and on the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in the world to determine God’s truth on this matter.  Maybe this is where we start as we seek to find the truth and share that truth.  Maybe we start by coming together, listening to one another, and looking for the Holy Spirit at work.

Posted by Sam Oakley