Acts 15:1 Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders… 6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
This was a really important moment in the history of the church. Since Christianity started as an offshoot of Judaism there was originally an assumption that Christians needed to follow the Jewish law, including the requirement that males be circumcised. But Paul and then Peter both pushed back on this way of thinking saying, “we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Here the gospel of Jesus Christ is being liberated from the confines of cultural Judaism.
Not to equate our current day with the Council of Jerusalem described above, but there are some interesting similarities. Yesterday in conversations with staff we discussed learning to be a church that engages people both locally/in-person and digitally/at a distance. I’ve heard this kind of organization (church or otherwise) described as “hybrid”. We don’t know how to be a hybrid organization – at least not yet. But we’re learning!
And while becoming a new expression of church is challenging on many levels it also provides interesting opportunities to share the transformational love of Jesus with a whole new audience. In essence, the church is being set free from the physical constraints of geography. Lord give us grace to embrace this new season of challenge and possibility. Amen.