Peacemaking In Practice
Lord, today I lay bare before You my deepest needs, my regrets, my pain. Make the crooked places in me straight.
Read Acts 15:12-21
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Recently I was in a church that meets in a neighborhood with serious unemployment and health problems, accompanied by the breakdown of family and social life. The church was founded by a prosperous center-city congregation, and two couples had decided to live in the area and open their lives and their homes to local people. As a result, a few neighbors had come to faith in Christ. One of the couples made this comment to me: “The existing congregation can cope with the occasional convert, but what happens when Christ becomes the Savior of more and more people around here? When the church starts to reflect the community in which it exists there will be a lot of changes and we are not sure that our middle-class friends will be able to cope with that!”
The wise words of James relate to situations like this: “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (19). James is not denying that the commitment to follow Jesus is demanding for all who make it. He will later denounce a dead faith which lacks ethical power and achieves neither personal nor social transformation (Jas. 2:14-24). Here he insists that we should not make it difficult for people who are on the path to salvation, freedom and renewal by creating barriers that block free access to Jesus.
There are familiar tales of missionaries who imposed Western culture on their converts, creating barriers that offended people who were genuinely attracted to Jesus. Are we also in danger of “making it difficult” for our neighbors—be they Muslims, humanists, or post-modern young people—to “turn to God” by requiring that they adopt our cultural patterns in behavior, dress or social life?
Try to identify specific ways in which you or your church may be creating barriers that discourage people from outside in their search for faith.
Lord Jesus, You came to break down the barrier between us and the Father. Help me to break down any cultural barriers that keep others from You.
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