For many new Christians (most of whom at this time had Jewish backgrounds), it was no small thing to see non-Jewish people being brought into God’s Kingdom through faith in Jesus. Gentiles were thought of as “other”, and some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem wanted the new Gentile converts to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses. They considered those steps necessary to be brought into the family of God. This caused quite a stir. After a meeting and a discussion, the resolution included the truth that people are saved by the grace of Jesus regardless of heritage or culture. Two prophets, Judas and Silas, hand-carried a letter with this news to the Gentiles in Antioch and they encouraged and strengthened the recently converted believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. When life is muddled at best or hostile at worst, there are few things more meaningful than the blessing of peace. May we seek to choose peace based on truth and in doing so be a blessing to others even when at first the issues may seem irreconcilable.
I’m thankful that biblical teaching was not only taught at the church we loved in Timberlake, North Carolina but something that was also practiced. Sweeping issues under the rug at home or at church is not a healthy way to go forward if our desire is real Christian maturity. But this growth is seldom without pain. Is it worth it to live having peace with God and peace with others? Peace allows the dirt under the rug to be cared for and the door to hope to open. Something that Russell and I enjoy doing, even up to this day, is returning to our own Antioch – the church family that faithfully sent us out with blessings in 1996, and supported our family as we served God in Asia. Returning is always a double blessing; we get to hear what God is doing in and through the church and also get to update our brothers and sisters with the things that God is doing in our part of His world. Each homecoming is full of joy because we treasure the same God who wants His children to live out the blessing of peace.