May 11 – Acts 15:12-41
For all of the moms reading along today, I hope you had a joy-filled Mother’s Day! I’ve spent a lot of time planting trees this last week. It’s good for my soul to feel the dirt in my hands and caretakingly place the roots and pat in the soil to steward God’s creation. This was one of the first roles God gave us as humans—to take care of His creation. Today is about simplifying, going back to our Christian roots.
READ: Acts 15:12-41
My Bible mentions that the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 was the first of its type in bringing together Christian leaders to make a decision for the church as a whole. In college, I had to take a lot of theology classes and studied the major councils in the church’s history. The first councils decided what books go into our Bible, but it seems like the one unifying principle among the councils was that each one added an “and this” to salvation. Peter and James and the other apostles at that first council had walked with Jesus and heard him teach first-hand; they watched him die on the cross and met with him after he rose from the dead. When did Jesus add an “and this” to being saved? Peter even had a vision from God in Acts 10 about how he should no longer consider the Gentiles unclean. Despite, the purpose of this council was to decide which Jewish laws the Gentiles needed to follow to be saved. And the outcome of the council was even to write a letter to the churches stating all the additional “requirements” (vs. 28-29).
Then, verses 36-41 record a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas that split them and sent them off in different directions. It was just in Acts 4:32 where all the believers were of one heart and mind, but about 10 years later, disunity is invading. Did God still use Paul and Barnabas for good after their disagreement? Without a doubt! But these two examples in Acts 15 show where Satan attacked the new church, and where that beast continues to attack today—all the splits and divisions and man-made traditions and adding to salvation through Jesus. The sermon at church this week said that pride is the #1 thing eating away at the Christian church today.
Humanity tries to complicate something God gave us that is so simple! John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” There is only one requirement: believe.
Seek unity through simplification.
Today’s reading left a bitter taste in my mouth, but help me, God, not to leave it at that. Help me to learn from what I’m reading and continually re-visit the simple truth, peeling back the layers of complexity I’ve added and getting back to the one thing that unifies us all as Christians–belief. Help me to start there, over and over, to humble myself under You. Help me not to add requirements. I pray for the Christian church too, for unity under You, for simplification back to just belief.