When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. (Acts 21:17-21)
Missionaries receive a Welcome Home party, sometimes with a church potluck. They show images and report what God has done through their ministry. In return, the brothers and sisters provide them with food and housing. I can imagine Paul was greeted warmly in that tradition.
James and the elders praised God for Paul’s work. But in the next breath, they hint Paul will face trouble—without the help of the Jerusalem church—because they’re zealously enforcing the Laws of Moses and accusing Paul of rejecting them.
Paul didn’t tell the Jews to stop observing their laws but emphasized their traditions weren’t necessary to be justified by God. Salvation requires repentance and belief in Jesus.
In the 1960s and ’70s, the hippie culture and dress didn’t conform to traditional church rules. Jim Bomkamp, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was a drug-taking hippie during his teen years and became a Christian in his freshman year of college. No church accepted him until he discovered Calvary Chapel which began as a ministry to hippies in Southern California. Many left their surfboards at the front door and attended church in bathing suits.
We shouldn’t force our laws and customs on others. Legalism causes people to lose contact with God because they can’t or don’t want to follow the rules that churches place on them. We shouldn’t indicate what God thinks our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing wrong. Instead, we should pray and trust God will work on them as he does us from the inside out.
Father, I praise you for missionaries who spread the Good News of Jesus. Help me love and encourage people who aren’t like me. Keep me and my loved ones safe today and bind us closer to you. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.