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Day 32 - Thursday, March 30, 2023

“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.” - Acts 15:10-11

In the earliest years of the Christian church, the apostles and other leaders preached to and evangelized their fellow Jews. Soon, however, they began sharing the Gospel with Gentiles. Peter went to Antioch and, some years after his Damascus Road conversion, Paul started his missionary journeys. It must have been challenging for Jewish Christians: transitioning from the Mosaic and Rabbinic laws with their focus on dos and don’ts (legalism) to salvation through faith (and not by works) in Jesus (grace). After all, Jesus taught he did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Continuing to follow the most fundamental laws: what could that hurt?

If Jewish Christians wanted to continue to follow Jewish traditions that did not contradict or deny the grace of Jesus (as I’d argue continued animal sacrifices would have done), maybe that was fine for them. If their sincere convictions before God, whether right or wrong, led them to continue to avoid certain foods or continue to circumcise their sons, what was wrong with that?

Personal legalism, if I may call it that, was not the problem or the reason for the Jerusalem Conference in 49 A.D. That is where today’s story came from. The matter before church leaders gathered in Jerusalem was whether Gentile converts to the faith needed to be circumcised to be saved.

Having experienced his own difficulties understanding God’s will for Jews and Gentiles alike and, ultimately coming to a better understanding, Peter shared what he had learned with his fellow church leaders. The Message renders Peter’s words like this:

“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”

We still struggle with “trying to out-god God” sometimes. Maybe my personal conviction is that Christians should not drink. Maybe I judge and, without words but with side-eyes or social avoidance or even a bit of passive-aggressive behavior, I condemn Christians who drink.

Substitute: curse; smoke; “unwholesome” entertainment; tattoos; sex outside of marriage; secular music.

Substitute: don’t go to church every Sunday; read the “wrong” translation of the Bible; don’t pray enough; do or don’t believe the Bible is literal or without error; are or are not anti-abortion; do or don’t believe in traditional views of gender, marriage, or family; vote this way or that.

In 49 A.D., some Christians were trying to force other Christians to adopt their rules for salvation and Christian living – not God’s. Not much has changed since then other than the details.

Dear God,

Your grace has covered my sins and rendered me holy and righteous unto salvation through Jesus Christ. You are patient with me. Generous. Loving. No matter how wrongly I think or behave. You give me grace to continue to learn and grow into more of a reflection of Jesus. Forgive me when I try to out-god you to myself or to someone else. Most of all, do not let me be a hindrance to my own or anyone else’s experience of your amazing and generous love and grace. Amen

-David Moorman


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