Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”… If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
If the council of Jerusalem had stopped with the question of what scripture had to say about Peter’s experience at Joppa, they would have excommunicated Peter and outlawed the acceptance of gentiles into the church without first converting to Judaism. So we need to follow their lead, and alongside our faithful reflection on scripture, we have to allow into the moral conversations the real life experience of what God is doing in and through the lives of those about who we might have moral questions. And when we find God breaking what we thought were God’s rules, and calling, accepting, gifting and blessing people who we thought were beyond the pale, then it is time to recognise that God’s grace is, once again, a whole lot wider than we ever imagined, and thank God it is, because if it were not, we’d probably find ourselves excluded by it too! Christ is risen, and all things are being made new. We no longer need to live in the land of slavery and fear, but we are free to live in the wide open spaces of God’s love and joy. Thanks be to God!
Nathan Nettleton – laughingbird.net