Culture Clash

Jon Burgess


“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements:” ‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭15:28


What happened to the unity that was found at the birth of the church in Acts 2? Everyone who had once been together in one accord was now at each other's throats. On the side of the Jewish converts to Christianity, which at this point made up the shrinking majority of the new church, they felt the Gentiles had to follow all of the laws of Moses. On the other side of the Gentile converts to Christianity, they felt there wasa bait and switch going on. The Gospel they heard had told them Jesus paid the price on the Cross and that works couldn't get them to heaven anyhow. Both sides came together at this historic gathering in Jerusalem- the very place the Church had been birthed a few years earlier. The bell rang and they came out of their corners swinging. Ok, maybe not swinging, but phrases like "arguing vehemently", "insisted", and "long discussions" prevent us from looking at this gathering through rose-colored glasses. This was a full-on culture clash and how these leaders navigated these rough waters would determine the future of The Church.


I love the raw, unedited, messy accounts of a group of people just like us trying to follow the Holy Spirit. It gives me great encouragement as there isn't a week that goes by in ministry and in life that doesn't involve a clash of some kind. All these strong personalities and leaders in one room deciding the future of the church and they walk out days later in "complete agreement" with each other and The Holy Spirit to not put undue burdens on the Gentile Christians. A couple key insights here: Clashing leads to clarity- if they hadn't had this disagreement they wouldn't have had this discussion and they wouldn't have had a unified message to deliver. There would have splinter groups in the church becoming a dividing wedge to what The Holy Spirit wanted to do. Instead, this tension brought comprehension and released vision for the future of the Church. Fierce conversations, when led with maturity, can result in freedom. Unity does not mean uniformity- notice the Jewish Christians were not asked to stop their customs in the following of Christ. They didn't have to abandon their culture to follow Christ as long as Christ remained first in their lives. They simply were asked to not put anything between people and the Cross, to not add to the already complete Gospel. Each had their unique way of approaching the Lord together. Seeing eye to eye is not the same as seeing heart to heart- they left the Jerusalem Council in complete agreement but that didn't mean there wouldn't be more clashes. In fact, Barnabas and Paul clashed over whether to take John Mark along and split up their missionary journeys. They saw heart to heart on the advance of the Gospel but not eye to eye on how to do it. As a result, twice as many would now hear the Gospel as there were two teams instead of one. Sometimes multiplication comes from messy situations. We don't have to agree on everything, just the main things.


There are so many things dividing the church and the country right now. Too often I avoid confrontation and conflict in hopes of not rocking the boat. Yet, You Jesus were rocking the boat with every word You said. Not for the sake of conflict, but the sake of clarity of purpose. Give me the wisdom to navigate these divisive waters ahead of me. Bring unity by Your Spirit to our multicultural church.

Devotions for February 08

Leviticus 7,8,9
Acts 15

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