Friday, July 10
Identities in Conflict
The summer worship theme for Christ the King is
“Changing Church, Unchanging Mission.”
We are moving through the
“The Acts of the Apostles.”
The focus on Sunday, July 12, is what happened at the Jerusalem Council as recorded in
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
Up until now in our series, we have seen some really big changes in the church that have led up to this week’s pivotal moment in the history of the church. Two weeks ago, we learned about how God had chosen to include the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) into His promise through faith in Jesus. Last week we saw that the Holy Spirit and the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas into new territory with the Gospel (Paul’s first missionary journey), and as a result of Paul’s first missionary journey, the Holy Spirit had brought many more Gentiles to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
This was a huge change for the church that began as a homogeneously Jewish church, but was quickly becoming a diverse, multi-cultural church. The church had to figure out how to navigate the major cultural and ethnic differences that came with this new multi-cultural influx, and so the leaders of the church called a meeting in Jerusalem that we call the Jerusalem Council.
The issue that they were debating is whether or not the Gentile believers had to convert to Judaism by being circumcised and keeping the Law of Moses in order to be saved. However, the real question that they were wrestling with is: Where do we find our identity?
People find their identity in many things, such as their job, family, race, culture, sexuality, or political affiliation, just to name a few, and sometimes, a person’s identities will come into conflict with another person’s identity. All you have to do to see this conflict play out is turn on the news or look at your Facebook feed.
This is the type of conflict that they were dealing with at the Jerusalem Council where Jewish cultural identity came into conflict with Gentile cultural identities. This created a barrier between the Gentiles and the Gospel. But as Christians, we have been given a new identity in Christ when we were adopted into God’s family as His children through faith and Baptism. As Peter said to the Jerusalem Council, “It is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
This new baptismal identity in Christ supersedes and surpasses any other identity that we may have.
This doesn’t mean that we no longer have those other identities. After the Jerusalem Council, the Jewish believers continued to be circumcised, while the Gentile believers did not. But we must remember that those other identities are secondary to our primary and shared identity in Christ so that we don’t become a barrier between someone and the Gospel.
Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us a new identity in Christ that we share with all other believers. Help us to live according to the identity that you have given to us through Jesus Christ in relation to one another, and when we find our other identities in conflict, remind us that it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are. Amen.