Read Acts 15:13–21
13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18 things known from long ago.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectLooking back over your own experience of church, how do you feel about the compromises that have had to be reached?
James is clearly a dominant and respected figure in the most important church of the day, Jerusalem. We can assume that what he said carried great authority, though notice from verse 13 that it is only after he has heard all that the other apostles have had to say that he gets up to give his opinion. It seems as though all voices and opinions were listened to carefully.
James gets straight to the heart of the matter (14): what really matters is that people are genuinely turning to God (19). For James this seems to trump all other concerns. He does not, however, neglect theological reflection. In verses 15–19 he wrestles with God’s recorded promise that his ultimate concern was not just for Israel but for the Gentiles as well. How easy is it for us, even today, to embrace the idea that God’s love is not just for us but for others as well?
So why impose the four stipulations of verses 20–21? Surely it is that they cover actions which were very public and would cause the most offence or embarrassment to the Jewish Christians.
Listening, theological thinking and practical consideration. Could this example of conflict resolution aid you in a current conflict?