I love this text, in fact I could shout about this text from the roof tops repeatedly. In truth I would preach on this every other Sabbath if I could. It really is a powerful text. Unfortunately I have heard many bad sermons on this text and by bad I mean with poor theology or poor interpretation however you want to put it.
The text tells how the disciples make the transition from an exclusively Jewish faith to one inclusive of all people. It gives us a real insight into how the early church worked in resolving the deep theological questions. Here we find a solution that leads to harmony but is clear and decisive. The conclusion of the matter that the salvation of the people is most important and the honour of God. So all the guidelines that honour God stay along with the people and anything considered not necessary for that can be left. This leaves a major question for the church today as it undertakes many what seem to be life changing decisions.
When I read this text I find it so easy to say ah ha I know what to do. But when I really think about it I remember that as an individual dealing with God it can be easy to talk to him about stuff and reconcile where to go but when we live in community it can be difficult. Recently I was asked to write a blog about jewellery and I am working on it but this is one issue that for some churches pose a real problem. It may seem trivial to others but it speaks to the issue of modesty and therefore can be a real problem.
For a number of years I attended a church that had a policy of no jewellery. As I only joined and had never experienced it anywhere else I found it a difficult rule especially being a jewellery designer. In fact let's be honest I managed it periodically and this has followed me around for a while. It never ceased to amaze me how upset people would get over a ring or a bracelet but there it was. Then they would quote texts that say well if it offends your brother take it off. It used to make me so mad because they were offending me by being rude to me constantly but yet I was the person that had to change.
It never ceases to amaze me how people get consumed with rules. It is what happened to the Jewish people and they had to change to move forward in their faith to Christianity. What about us today? There are definitely guidelines and rules that God has but are we so hung up on power that we force everyone to follow what we want instead of remembering it is what God wants that is important. Sometimes in being righteously indignant over things we forget that we should be a mirror of Christ not just of a judge. Maybe when we read this text instead of being elated that circumcision is out and we don't have to be bound by that or thinking oh how exciting there are still rules how about we look at the principle that God is the one who needs to be honoured and anything that doesn't do that should take a back seat in our life including our behaviour to others.