5th Week of Easter, Thursday, May 6
Acts 15:7-21 / John 15:9-11
Jesus talks about love; "As the Father lows me, so I love you.”
A godfather was visiting at the home of his godchild. She was showing him her dolls. "Which doll do you like most?" he asked.
"Promise you won't laugh if I tell you," she said. He promised. The little girl pointed to a miserable, tattered-looking doll. "Why do you love that doll most?" the godfather asked curiously. "Well," she said, "it's because that one needs my love most. Nobody else likes it." That simple little story is a kind of parable of Jesus' love for fallen humanity. He loved us because we were sinners and needed love most.
How sensitive are we to those people who need love most? "There is more pleasure in loving than in being loved." Thomas Fuller
To prevent these Judaisers from perverting the church, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem. If these fanatics had had their way, the church would have remained an insignificant Jewish sect. God could not allow this. God always uses men to do what he wants. Patil and Barnabas made the rounds of all the leading men: They went to the apostles, Peter, James and John, the council of the elders and the brethren. We would call it lobbying today. The meeting itself was a masterpiece of democratic procedure. First, they allowed all to talk. That cleared the issue. Then Peter spoke. His points were: He himself had converted Cornelius, now a first-class influential Christian, who received the Holy Spirit. Should he be subjected to the law that had never made them happy since they could never fulfil it themselves? Salvation is not given to us through the observance of the law but by the grace of Jesus. Though silenced by the force of the arguments, they waited for James to rescue them. This trump card had wisely been kept to the end. James spoke shortly but clearly: He accepted Peter's argument. He calls him Simon, his original name. Paul wisely does not figure in the council. James, loving concern, urges them to abstain from idolatry and from blood, for which the Judaists had an abhorrence. The church was saved. This council of Jerusalem was the first council of the Church, and the model of all.
In full collegiality, the apostles decided at the Council of Jerusalem that the Church is to be open to all without any distinction. All are saved in the same way: through Jesus Christ. God loves all people. That must have been a tremendous challenge for the Jews, to whom pagans were unclean and alien.