And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
(Acts 15:7-11 ESV)
It’s interesting to me how hard it is to follow the advice of this passage. I don’t care if you are talking about following in in church life, family life, community life or other relationships, the expectations we have for others to meet are often the expectations we have a hardest time meeting ourselves. My psychological education tells me that in fact we are mad at ourselves for not being able to meet those expectations, but we take that anger out on others around us who have the same or similar shortcomings. I know I can think of at least a dozen times when I’ve done this. I don’t get outwardly mad, but inside I feel annoyed at someone else when they display certain of the same quirks that I have.
What I love about the passage above is that the early disciples acknowledge their problem, they admit that they and their forefathers had a hard time following the law passed on by Moses, and ask the question, if we can’t follow these requirements, and if God loves us anyway, who are we to ask others to follow them? They make these consessions, yet don’t give up on who they truly are. They write to the new believers and share with them the heart of their belief, and also set out a standard of morality for them to follow, but considering the laws passed down to the Jewish people the new standard is radically minimalistic.
I think many in the church have strayed away from this teaching. I know many times in my own personal life I have strayed from this teaching. I wonder what would happen if we relieved people around us of the burden of following rules and standards that we ourselves have a hard time following, and instead focused on giving less: A racially minimalistic standard that focused more on expressing the love and compassion of Christ rather than following a set of rules. Isn’t that one of the gifts that Christ came to earth to give us?
I imagine if we focused on giving that gift we’d all be less burdened, happier, more joyful, more Christlike people.
Just my $.02