As a church we’ve continued to read through the letter to the Romans. In chapter 14 into 15 the author, Paul, challenges us to focus on the essentials of our faith and not to allow secondary or “disputable” matters to divide us. I thought I’d take a moment to look at this from a cultural angle as well.
In the pages of the New Testament we see a clash between two cultures. First, the Jews. They understood there was only one way to be faithful to God and this meant being Jewish in every way: culturally, religiously, and socially. Then, with the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of His Holy Spirit, now there were other people of faith that weren’t Jewish in any way. (There’s one word to cover the big group of everyone-that’s-not-a-Jew: “Gentile”.)
A lot of New Testament ink is devoted to the massive implications of this cultural change; I’ll focus on one thing. In Acts 15 the clash has become intense. The Jews want the Gentiles to act Jewish, with a long list of do’s and dont’s, but others see that as unnecessary. In the end they settle on a very short list of practices they easily agree on, realizing that the essentials of faith are most important and not their way of doing things. It’s simply about following Christ!
Over the past decade Charlottetown has seen tremendous growth in its immigrant populations. That means there are new faces to see, new languages being heard, and new ways of doing things. At Cornerstone we’ve made a real effort to embrace all people and welcome them to be part of what God is doing among us. These changes can create conflict, even when we’re open to change.
I want to encourage us as a church to continue being willing to do things in a new way so that new people are welcomed in, without it being unnecessarily complicated. If we worry that things aren’t being done “our way” we’ll likely miss seeing things done “God’s way”. The culture that we have now as a church will look different, and that can be a wonderful thing! Fortunately, we believe that God makes unity possible in the midst of all kinds of diversity… social, economic, cultural, generational, etc. A Christian is a new kind of person, and a church is a new kind of community that is only possible by the power of God within it.
Take some time this week to thank God for the people in our church who are different from you.
Pray that we would be more concerned with doing things in “God’s way” of love rather than “our way”.
“God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” – Peter (Acts 15:8-11, NLT)