by Andrew Hillard
In our current cultural climate, it seems that you’re either on my side or on the other side. You’re either with me, or you’re against me. And if we disagree on one point, then you must be wrong on every point. There’s no use in me listening to you or in you listening to me. I already know what you’re going to say, and you’re wrong. Unfortunately, that’s the tone of way too much of our discourse, even among professed Christians, a tone that leads us at times to stop even listening to those with whom we disagree.
That’s why the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 is a refreshing break from the world in which we live. The events described there don’t take place in a world devoid of extreme or even wrong-headed views. The view that anything other than faith in Jesus is what makes a person right with God is a serious error that had crept into the early church, one that still threatens today in many churches. What’s different in Acts 15 is the way the leaders of the early church handled this challenge. In stark contrast to the way disagreements play out all over social media and cable news today, they actually had a debate, a serious disagreement, but the final result wasn’t division. By the time everyone had been heard in Acts 15:22, “it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church,” to send out messengers to the Gentile believers reassuring them of their support among the Christians at Jerusalem. It was a message marked by thoughtful wisdom and by Spirit-powered unity. It was a message of uncompromising truth and a call to consider the consciences of others. It was a message forged not through name-calling but by carefully listening to one another and to the word of God. It is a message that shows us a better way forward, one where winning hearts with grace and truth matters more than winning the moment.