“Heretic!” That was the first word in a scathing review. Though really, do you even bother reading the review after that opener?
This time I did, mainly because it was about an author I know and admire, and secondly, because I wondered whether the reviewer could have any intellectual integrity when they open with that much fire power?
The truth is I’m weary of inflammatory words being thrown down — carelessly and otherwise. I’m tired of hearing someone blowing hard about what’s ‘not Biblical’. I’m pooped out on pontification. And I guess I’m angry. Angry about these damn heretics I experience all around me.
This is where Acts 15 comes in. (I know right? You didn’t see that one coming.) Acts 15 is one of those showdown, name calling moments. Or it could have been that, if Peter, Paul, Barnabas and James had been 21st century bloggers. Instead they were men who had less invested in their reputation and their denomination; they cared less about their ego and the consistency of their voting record, than they did about being attentive to the leading of the Spirit and the experience of their lives.
The situation is this: A group of the literal-minded asked: “Shouldn’t the new non-Jewish converts be marked by the ancient ritual of circumcision?” This action was the evidence of allegiance and faith in Jehovah. WWJD? Well, they knew the answer.
But Peter, Paul and the rest had a different answer. They had experienced something among the Gentile converts, they had received a new revelation, and those two things had caused them to understand scripture at a different level. The church in Acts 15 discusses, and debates and ultimately understands that their message is based on nothing but grace alone. No circumcision, no ritual, will stand in the way of full inclusion for the gentiles. In other words, experience, revelation, re-reading the scripture had changed them and they were unafraid to boldly proclaim that change.
“We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God,” James declares.
Well, that’s a good thing for us to remember isn’t it? In an age where Anne Rice decided she just couldn’t be part of this thing called the church any longer, in a time when thoughtful Christians are labeled heretics for asking the questions we all are thinking, I appreciate the chutzpah of these early followers. And I vow to follow who they followed. Join me. Let’s recover the good news of the gospel alone. Don’t make it too hard.