S (Scripture): Acts 15:19 James says, “Therefore I conclude that we should not cause extra difficulty for those among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 15:20 but that we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things defiled by idols and from sexual immorality and from what has been strangled and from blood…15:28 For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules…
O (Observation): The first generation of followers of Jesus Christ decide to gather together in order to discuss the coming together of Jews and Gentiles into one fellowship, as Christians. The conclusion James reaches is a bit of a compromise between a people who seem not to be too concerned over animal blood and certain sexual immorality (Gentiles) and people who are concerned about these things (Jews). This gets to the point that James and others decide to write a letter to this group of Christians who will do well to respect one another.
How did they come to this conclusion? They talked together, with the Holy Spirit, and stepped forward with a response. “It seemed good to the holy Spirit and to us.”
A (Application): How do we get along in the Church? We all bring our own baggage of what we think is right/wrong. As a community, we care for the spiritual well-being of one another. As such, we would do well to consider one another’s perspectives on moral issues.
My guidance is to perceive what we think about an issue as a community (along with the Holy Spirit!) and use care in how we implement our decisions.
What issues do you struggle with? Have you been in a situation in which a matter of morality has come into question, and you had to struggle through it? How did that turn out for you and that community?
The church I serve had such a conversation that went bad (before my time began there). They split over the issue of human sexuality (I.e. homosexuality). Some steps were taken to discuss the issue, but several simply took the path of not ever stepping to the table to discuss. That was a difficult time and remains part of their past identity…but the issue that stands above, and heals all, is the grace that God pours out into this congregation I serve, and the grace God shows to our community in which we live, work, laugh, love, and play.
P (Prayer): Lord, in difficult times of moral discernment, help us to seek you in our conversations, in our prayers, and in sighs too deep for words. Amen.