Friday, February 8, 2013
Less is More
Less is More
"For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.
Record numbers of people, both Jew and Gentile were turning to Jesus Christ. Now the new movement had a problem; how would they respond to the Gentiles who did not live according to all the Jewish laws and rules? The reality was that the rules had become unmanageable and instead of bringing people closer to God they had become a barrier in the relationship between God and humanity. When the apostles met together to discuss this issue they realized that it was more important for people to be followers of Jesus Christ than followers of the religion of Judaism. They decided that they had to make Jesus as accessible to people as could be reasonably possible. There did need to be lifestyle changes for to be a follower of Christ did not mean that you could continue to live in sin. The apostles made it easy: don't mess with Inga that have been sacrificed to other gods. Leave them alone. Don't mess with blood either...don't eat it, don't drink it, don't use it! Also, do not eat animals which have been strangled...and finally, stay away from any impure sexual practices.
In today's terminology we would be saying, don't mess with evil. Don't play around with things that have been offered to the enemy. Also, take care of your health...Universal Precautions today keep us away from blood. We know that blood brings with it disease. Animals which had been strangled ... Maybe that's road kill. There are rules about road kill and how soon you must pick it up to be eaten or else it is unsafe for you. We also know the physical dangers of sexual immorality, whether it is physical disease or the mental and moral degradation which comes from pornography. Basically they are telling new believers to protect themselves mentally, emotionally and physically. God's people are healthy people...they are not destructive people.
The people were so grateful for the news they had received for it made sense to them. Love Jesus...and be his healthy people, not corrupted by the practices of the world around you.
We often hear today that young people love Jesus but hate the church. Could it be that, at times, the church has created barriers to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? When we make loving Jesus too difficult we drive people away. Loving Jesus and being his follower ought to make sense to people. I'm not talking about cheapening Christianity in any way shape or form. However, I think the church must be critical, asking herself whether what she has expressed is truly pointing people in the direction of Jesus.
At the same time I think we have to be careful and not let the pendulum swing the other direction. Many a young person today would resist the ideas of what we call fornication. Having sex outside of marriage, living together before marriage and having multiple partners is strongly supported by popular culture. Young people have been so bombarded by these ideas that Christian concepts seem almost foreign to them. Yes, these ideas brought forth by the apostles were foreign to the new Gentile believers...and yet they bought into them. They made sense to them. We need to be speaking up these days on the essentials of the Christian life and not be shy about what is good for a follower of Christ.
Yes, sometimes less is more. Sometimes it is a more powerful message that will bring transformation to the life of someone who so desperately needs to understand what it is that Christ offers and when we present it in a clear and concise way, their hearts sing for joy!
Lord, please help me not to muddy the waters for others...not to be a stumbling block. Amen.