Day 40: If We Have To, They Must, Too!
Acts 15.1-11 (NRSV)
Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3 So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10 Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
When I read this passage I think of the story about the workers who went out to work in the field at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. (Read Matthew 20.1-16.) The first were hired for a set fee, the next just were happy to get work. At the end of the day those who worked the longest expected those who came later would get less money—but the person who hired them gave each worker the same amount that he promised to give the first people he hired. When those who had worked all day realized they got the same pay as those who only worked an hour they complained: “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” How would you feel if this happened to you?
Prayer Recap: Dear Lord, Cain was jealous of Abel, the Pharisees had strict standards, and we want equal pay for equal work—how are we to understand your radical grace that is given freely and is never earned? Amen.