And (God) put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.Acts 15:9
As I pen these words, it’s Inauguration Day in my beloved United States of America. Divisiveness runs rampant, so it seemed like an appropriate time to take a closer look at scripture’s position on the issue. Especially since – not coincidentally- my daily reading included Acts chapter fifteen.
In context, this chapter records the conference at the Jerusalem church called after Saul and Barnabas reported some Jewish Christians came to Antioch-a church consisting of many Gentiles- insisting that the Gentil members keep the law, including being circumcised.
God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and part of that covenant included circumcision (which was instituted in Genesis 17). However, that never meant God didn’t love the other people in the world. In fact, God made provisions for including them in his chosen plan for government and worship outlined in Leviticus.
After many compromises that included intermarriage and idolatry, the Jews suffered captivity. In the aftermath of that, they created a seemingly insurmountable wall between themselves and the Gentiles. By the time Jesus was born, it had become an ugly racial prejudice.
Jesus broke down this wall during his ministry by healing many non-Jewish people. He calls his disciples to continue dismantling the wall of divisiveness.
In Acts 15:9, Peter claims that God put no difference between the Jews and the Greeks. The dividing line was one of faith.
Please keep reading. This post is not going to say it’s okay to persecute other religions. It isn’t even going to infer that it’s okay to dislike people with other positions of faith.
The dividing line of faith should never lead to unrest and hatred. Jesus died for all men. Jesus calls all men (and women and children) to be saved.
As believers, we are called his ambassadors and are supposed to carry his ministry of reconciliation into all the world. This starts at home with our neighbors, whether they be Democrat, Republican, Independent, Socialist or Communist.
See what I did there? I threw in some political beliefs that most Americans scorn because our democratic republic is so superior to them. We cling to our self-righteous position that our government is ordained of God.
But our democratic republic is failing to serve all the people who are its citizens. In the effort to give marginalized populations a louder voice, the majority is often condemned as bigoted and hateful.
That, my friends, is the divisiveness Peter spoke against. And let’s face it, the Jews weren’t living in a happy place when the New Testament was written. They were a conquered people under the thumb of a hedonistic, idolatrous emperor.
And yet Jesus Christ came. And yet he said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). We must be careful to keep government in its rightful place.
As followers of Christ, we should exercise compassion on others, but our biggest concern should always be their eternity. If you call them out for their politics, sexual conduct or whatever else, will they be willing to hear you out on your stand for Christ?
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.John 3:17
Don’t let the devil win. Stand for the Lord by loving everyone and seeking ways to share the grace of Jesus Christ with them, through acts of service first so their ears will be open when you speak the words of truth.