Excerpts from Acts 17:1-9 (ESV)…they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…some of them were persuaded and joined Paul…But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob… when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities…
By Pastor Chris
Paul had a deep dedication and love for the Jewish communities he had grown up in. At this point he already had much more success and had more in common with the gentile believers, but he was consistent about going to the Jews first, and he only stopped trying to convert them after being forced to by law, or physical force. In a time when it is a cultural norm to hop from church to church over minor theological differences, musical tastes, or social circles, this is a message we desperately need.
Paul did not give up on his faith community, he worked to be the change he wanted to see. He was criticized and abused for it, but the church as a whole is better today because of his efforts. He made logical arguments, and he used his own experience to share anecdotal evidence. The Jewish leaders refused to listen, and we should learn from their mistake.
Since many of us choose a church that fits our beliefs and tastes best, we are surrounded by people who think and believe like us. When a new idea is presented with logic, we argue "God's ways are not like our ways", or "Man's wisdom is foolishness to God". When confronted with examples of personal experiences that question our traditions or deeply held beliefs, we ignore them as the "logical fallacy of anecdotal evidence". We note that it is our responsibility to protect the flock from false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing. I imagine the Jews from Thessalonica thought they were offering a similar service to their community.
It is this type of thinking that has kept churches progressing slowly on issues like women & LGBTQ leaders, as well as any form of modern scientific symbiosis. Hearts have been hardened and lines have been drawn in the sand. Churches have divided and created their own echo chambers on both ends of the arguments. We have lost the diversity within the individual bodies that once allowed us to sharpen one another.
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”
― Edwin Markham
Churches need larger circles, they need a generous orthodoxy. If you look to the roots of our faith tradition we have a long history of diverse theology. Many of the ancient church fathers would be called heretics and cast out of the church by today's standards. We don't need to agree to belong. Individuals on the fringes need to stay in place and help be the change they want to see instead of creating new echo chambers. Those in the accepted orthodoxy need to let their defenses down a little and listen to the stirring voices in their community. These voices are often the soft quiet voice of the spirit moving, or the rumbling roar of an incoming revival.
God, we thank you for the gift of LifeJourney Church, a church with a generous orthodoxy, may we continue to draw ever larger circles. May we be a light on a hill to the churches in our community for what the beauty of diversity can look like. May we be the salt that gives our world a little bit of flavor – Amen
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