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  • Writer's pictureAllison Wilcox

Promoting Harmony

When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them. ~ Acts 21:17-26

Although we tend to think of Paul as being a loud voice pulling Christianity away from the laws of Moses, this only went so far. Nothing seems to indicate that Paul told Jews to forsake Moses. Paul in fact was very clear that followers should always leave room for "weaker consciences." That meant that sometimes it was appropriate to follow the laws of Moses, including circumcision and dietary laws.

Instead Paul preached that Jewish customs should not be normative for Gentile Christians. Gentile Christians should not have to follow the laws of Moses to become Christian.

And for Paul (and Luke, who wrote Acts), the laws of Moses were not the way of salvation.

So hearing the false words spread about him, Paul went through the rite of purification and entered the temple - as certainly he had done many times before that Road to Damascus.

So what does that say for us? What does it say for things that are necessary to our faith, and things that are merely customary, or even, as Martin Luther put it, "adiaphora." or something that is neither commanded nor forbidden.

What cultural parts of your faith are important enough to take part in even if they aren't necessary?

And what cultural parts of your faith do you need to let go of?

Holy Lord, lead me to worship you in faith and truth, through customs that are pleasing to you and are done with my heart. Amen

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