In Acts 2, after the recounting of Pentecost, you come to verse 42: “The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” I think of this as a Norman Rockwell painting of the church – perfect. The only problem is that this perfect church was short lived, soon in conflict and divided. In some ways the church was a victim of its success. The first believers were Jewish Christians. That is, they came to Christianity by way of their Jewish faith and practice. When the gentiles started coming, these first believers started to insist that they first submit to the Hebrew Law – observe the food restrictions, and for the males be circumcised.
I relate this because the church is still in conflict. The details are different today, but the root of the conflict is still the same. Those who came first want those who follow to come on the same path that they did.
I don’t think that’s what God had in mind when he gave us the gift of the church. If you turn to the end of the Bible, in the last chapter of Revelation you will find a description of what God wants the church to be – new and inclusive.
As I was thinking about this my mind drifted back to a conversation I had with a man struggling with a call to pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church. He told me that he didn’t think he could ever get past the baptizing of children. After we went around and around several times, I told him I wanted him to do something for me. I asked him if he would write down the essentials of his faith, but he could only use 100 words. He never did write it down, but he went on to serve as a pastor for many years and is still serving.
What are your essentials of your faith, in 100 words or less? Do any conflicts drop by the wayside as a result?
Lord, help us to focus on the essentials of our faith. Amen.
Always, to God be the glory!