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.”
Word of mouth is a touchy thing. We can be sent with a message and arrive with a different message. We can state the message accurately but be heard or interpreted incorrectly. A partial, misleading, or inaccurate message does no good, but it does tend to spread like wildfire.
This is the situation which the early Christian leaders take pains to head off in Acts 15:23-29. They have decided that it is not necessary to becme aJew in order to convert to Christianity. They have decided to send envoys from Jerusalem to bring this news to different Christian communities. They then write a letter introducing their decision, which will be sent with the messengers.
The letter addresses people very clearly. It tells who it is from. It tells why the statement is being made. This is very important. People had been troubling the Christians, laying burdens upon them. Yet those people were not acting within the authority of the assembled Church. They were a fringe group teaching false doctrine. The message of true doctrine is brought out to counter falsehood.
At the same time, this communication makes it plain that Christians do have some behavioral expectations. There are some elements, beyond an internal belief, which are essential to life in community and identification as a Christian. However, the expectations are not great. They serve to point people in a positive direction behaviorally. The apostles and elders in Jerusalem don’t assume that Christians will reject all ethical behavior other than the activities listed in this passage. But they do say these are necessary. Idolatry, sexual immorality, and the drinking of blood are rejected. Those who reject those practices will likely find themselves embracing the good works typically found among Christians.
Trusting God through Jesus is one of those life-changing things. The more we know about that Jesus, the more we trust him, the more we see his work in our lives, the more we will want to live like he lived. The other details will largely take care of themselves. The message from Jerusalem, then, is very good news. God uses his messengers to kindle a fire of good life in the community.
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