Reflecting on Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29
Decisions. I hate them. I run from them, and put up every kind of smokescreen to keep from making them. That’s hugely frustrating for the people who have to work and live with me, and the truth is I would never decide at all if I weren’t eventually shamed into it.
The earliest Christians engaged in a history-changing discernment in 50 AD. This momentous decision regarded who would be admitted into the emerging Christian community. That was the decision for the ages.
How did they discern what restrictions to lay on those Gentiles who were asking to be admitted to their community? Certainly the Jewish Christians (like Mary, the mother of Jesus!) still considered themselves Jews, observed the kosher laws, and worshipped in the synagogue. But what to do about the burgeoning number of Gentiles who were hearing the Word through the missionary journeys of Paul and Barnabas? Shouldn’t they observe everything the Jews observe, including, for men, circumcision?
St. Paul said, “No!” The more conservative Jews in Jerusalem said, “Yes!” You can imagine the televised debates and internet sniping that would go on today. But the Holy Spirit filled this infant Church with an open heart.
A Council was called. The problem was set out. Then experience was called upon. Paul talked about the huge response to the gospel in the Gentile lands. Peter told the remarkable story of the conversion of the family of Cornelius, the Gentile centurion (Acts 10) that changed his mind about who’s in and who’s out.
Experience and compassion ruled the day. The Church spread like wild fire. Imagine a Church without Gentiles like St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Teresa of Calcutta. And you.
What experience have you had that changed a conviction you used to have?
Kathy McGovern ©2019