Scripture: Acts 21:17 When (Paul and his companions) arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
Observation: The church elders in Jerusalem were glad to hear of Paul’s success in spreading the gospel among the Gentiles, but false rumors had spread about Paul (see v.21). There were many Jewish Christians who believed that to follow Jesus meant adopting the cultural norms of the Jews. Paul spent much of his life fighting this way of thinking, paving the way for a Christian church freed from the restrictions of cultural Judaism.
Application: There is a difference between Christianity and culture. Christianity is based on the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection, that all people might be welcomed into the family of God by grace. Culture describes the packaging through which the Christian faith is taught and communicated – things like liturgy, music, rituals, language, and so on.
The beliefs of Christianity are timeless while the cultural packaging must be ever-changing.
Truth? The battle to separate Christianity from culture continues, and it’s not going very well. We are far too slow in adapting to the world around us. Cultural elements that are precious to life-long Christians are often baffling to those outside the church. Yet even in the face of significant decline, the church clings to the familiar. At our peril.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, people are creatures of habit. We tend to value what is known, and shy away from the new. Give us grace that we might do whatever it takes to share the gospel with those who do not yet know you. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.