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Acts 15:12-21, The Council at Jerusalem

Wednesday, April 25

Accommodating or Welcoming?

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

diversity leads to blossoming of faith

When the Council at Jerusalem heard Paul and Barnabas' argument concerning the circumcising of Gentiles (that they should not be expected to be circumcised, as circumcision was never part of their cultural or religious history, nor is expected by Christ), the Council decided to abide by their recommendation. The Gentiles would not be expected to conform to the norms and expectations of the Jews with the exception of practices that run contrary to the loving, saving word and work of Christ -- worshiping false idols and orgies, and the like. 

Here's where it can get tricky. One perspective might suggest that allowing Gentiles to remain uncircumcised is bowing to the pressure to accommodate shifting cultural norms. I've heard this argument even today, particularly in light of the shift toward accepting and welcoming folks in the LGBTQ community. The argument is that allowing such "abomination" is accommodating shifting cultural norms, and that we should crack down, rather than open up to these changes.

I absolutely disagree. Paul made it clear no one was bowing to any pressure. On the contrary, they were quite clear that continuing the practices that kept them from walking in the footsteps of Christ were discouraged, even forbidden. Circumcision neither drew near nor pushed away a person's ability to follow Christ. Circumcision had no bearing on a person's ability or willingness to follow Christ. Similarly, a person's sexual and gender identity in 2018 has no bearing on a person's ability or willingness to follow Christ. Maybe the burden is upon those of us in straight circles to shift our own perspectives to welcome the differences, rather than condemn them. And maybe in shifting our own perspectives, we might even grow in faith ourselves in ways we could not have imagined.

Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 15:12-21

The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’ Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

*An earlier version of this blog post included a swear word which was offensive to some. I apologize for any offense.