"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."
This sounds like something John Wesley would say but he didn't.
In his tract, "The Character of a Methodist" he does write, "As to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think."
And so we have to figure out what is essential. We have to figure out what is the root of Christianity. We have to know what we are about as people of faith.
Within today's reading in Acts, we see Peter re-evaluating what was essential. What does it mean to be uncircumcised and yet a believer in Jesus Christ? What does it mean to share in food that is considered unclean?
To the many of the people of that day, these were "essentials". To suggest otherwise was to strike at the root of Christianity.
And yet, here we see Peter moving past them. How would he decide to do this?
What was his rubric?
It was what he saw as the mission of the church. The mission of the church was not to circumcise men (although this was laid out as a commandment by God). The mission of the church was not to observe dietary laws (also laid out by God). But the mission of the church was to share the gift of life in Jesus Christ with the world. All other things are subservient to the mission.
As we discover our own mission as the church, we have to prioritize our actions. How do the things we do help us to achieve this mission today? If there are things we are doing that were not helping (such as insisting on circumcision for adult men), then we may need to stop doing them.
Sometimes the church's difficulty is moving
people past hospitality and into discipleship.
If a church puts out doughnuts, are they for members or visitors? Do they represent our hospitality or our comfort? What about coffee? (uh, oh). It is not wrong for me to partake of these things in my own church. But it may be wrong if I do so at the expense of the mission.
I will attempt to wade a little deeper into these waters on Sunday. I invite you to join me and hopefully we won't pull each other under!
Photo by Deb Watson via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.