The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In Acts 15:12-21 the controversy over the conversion of Gentiles has come before the assembled elders and apostles in Jerusalem. Once the evidence has been heard, James, who we note is not one of the Twelve, serving as the leader of the council, judges that the testimony of Paul and Peter is in accord with Scripture. God has said that he will save people from every nation and that he will do it by his grace, not in light of any of their works.
This decision and statement has tremendous importance. It says that all nations are loved by God. It says that there is no work of the law we can complete to be saved. It says that our decisions need to be weighed in light of Scripture. It says that salvation is by grace through faith. It also says that the work of considering difficult situations and judging them is not dependent on the Twelve, but that the leadership of the church is something held by different people in different times.
What do we make of the commands the council issues? People who have convered to Christianity are given certain laws they must follow. These commands are not random at all. Gentiles, as well as Jews, who have trusted in Christ need to avoid idolatry, sexual immorality, and eating blood. The reason for the first two is fairly self-explanatory. Both those activities, as well as being condemned in Scripture, take our attention away from the places God has made it to rest - on God and our family. What of the third? James explains the prohibition against eating blood in verse 21. It is so highly offensive to Jews that it will hinder their belief in Christ.
The same Jesus who gave his body to eat and his blood to drink in communion calls all who believe into communion with him and with one another. We rightly try to avoid any hindrance to that community of faith. Rather, we pursue good relationships with all.
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