Summary: This is an adaptation of a Fred Craddock Sermon. We must guard against being exclusive in our approach to evangelism and the church.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
* They knew it was going to be a rough meeting because: Controversy was high.
* It was going to be confrontational -- most of us do not like confrontation -- would rather go shopping and come back to ask how it went.
Philip Yancey, author of The Jesus I Never Knew and other books, relates a time when he happened to be in Washington, D.C., when a huge gay-rights demonstration took place directly in front of the White House. He beheld a startling confrontation. There were about 40 mounted policemen forming a protective circle around a small group of outspoken Christian protesters.
Thanks to huge, orange posters announcing hellfire, the tiny band of Christians was attracting most of the press photographers.
The believers began shouting, "Shame-on-you-for-what-you-do." Then they switched to, "AIDS, AIDS, it's comin' your way."
How did the marchers respond to the Christians? Some taunted or mocked them. But one group approached their condemners and began to sing: "Jesus loves you, this we know, for the Bible tells us so."
* It was a single issue meeting: Are we going to continue to admit in full standing and fellowship in the church foreigners?
o Persons who have never been part of the nation of Israel?
o Persons who do not know the OT?
o Do not have the moral standards of Israel?
o Do not have the traditions of the Exodus?
o Yesterday worshiped before idols?
o Shall we, upon their simple obedience to Jesus allow them into our fellowship? Is that enough?
* The people were divided over it. (Luke: There was much debate/no small dissension). Not just that the Christians disagreed with each other. Individual Christians disagreed with themselves. Sometimes when we lash out at others with intensity, it is because I am at war with myself. I will make casualties out of people I love.
* True of Peter -- "How should I vote?"
When he stood up at Pentecost to preach he looked sweet and good. Stood before a great crowd of people from every nation. When Peter finished his sermon he told them that the promise was to them, their children, their children's children and to ALL AFAR OFF. -- Gentiles -- as many as God shall call. Did he just get carried away?
Then he had a vision to go and preach to the Gentiles, but he said NO!
IT Is One Thing To Preach. It Is Another Thing To Do.
Peter was divided in his own heart -- Paul said so -- at the Fellowship Dinner in Antioch Peter and Barnabas were eating with Gentiles until Jewish Christians came. Then they formed a Jewish table -- a painful thing for the Antioch church and Paul. Peter, too!
It is one thing to know in your head that we should include these people. It is another thing in your heart to know we should include these people. That is the longest trip we ever make -- between the head and the heart.
* The debate begins:
It is like one of our political conventions where they went to the microphones to have their say:
Spokesman #1 -- "Mr. Chairman, we are here from Antioch. We have a great Bible Study program "Super Six" Bible Study program every Tuesday night. We've been studying Ezra. We all believe the Bible and it says, "Get rid of the foreigners." "Even if you are married to one -- divorce her!" "Get rid of the foreigners, that is all I want to say, thank you."
Spokesman #2 -- We have a nice church and Education ministry. We are from Berea. We've named our class "The Berean Class." The ladies have been studying the wonderful lady of the Bible, Ruth. She was the ancestor of David and of Jesus and she was a Moabite. If our Lord had Moabite blood in his veins, isn't it OK to allow this? Thank you.
Spokesman #3--I don't know, but one of the great prophets of God was Amos. He said, "You alone (the Jews -- do we need to define 'alone'? -- It says alone) have I chosen among all the nations. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Spokesman #4 -- I do not have much say, but when I was a child I memorized a Bible verse, but I can't quite recall it. It went something like , "The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established and ALL the nations shall flow to it." Thank you.
If you had been in Jerusalem when the discussion arose, wouldn't you have rather been shopping?
LET'S ASK, "WHOSE FAULT WAS THIS ANY WAY?