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 21:18-26 the apostle Paul had been criticized by Israelite members of the Christian community. There was a mistrust of his activities. Because he was teaching that salvation was by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, not in the works of the Law, some thought he was telling Jews that they should not participate in their life within the covenants of God to the Jews. Was he saying that Jews should not practice the customs they had been raised with?
This was not Paul’s desire at all. He was not telling people not to keep God’s Law. He was telling them that God’s Law would not save them, but only God’s grace. In Christ, the dietary laws, the laws of purification, the household and community prayers, the vows of holiness, all were fulfilled. Yet it would never harm anybody to live a holy life or to rejoice in how God has set a people aside for his glory.
The apostles and elders in Jerusalem advised Paul to participate in a vow which some others were taking on. He should do it publicly and let his Jewish opponents see that he had nothing against Moses. All would be consistent with the teaching the leaders had previously done regarding Gentiles and salvation.
Christians sometimes try to hide what they are doing. We rightly wish to avoid bringing attention and glory to ourselves. However, sometimes our world will benefit from a clear view of our attitudes and priorities. In recent days in my country there has been a flood of organizations bringing relief, shelter, and comfort to those who have been displaced by natural disasters. Doubtless, among the workers helping with reconstruction, there will be a large contingent of Christians who give of their resources because others have lost what they had. Of course, there will be others, some motivated by religious sentiment, others by secular sentiment. But history has shown that the Christians are more likely to come to the aid of those who are suffering than any other group. It’s something our world needs to see, Christians doing good, unifying, helping people who have no other means of assistance. Just as Paul shows his world that he does not reject the Jewish community, we can show our world that we care for what happens in every place.
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