Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:
The apostles and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 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. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Some people feel the need to tell others exactly how they should behave. I know people who are proud of their very strict standards for how they live out their faith. Of course, I am upset when I see people who behave badly and call it Christian liberty. Some Christians behave in critical self-righteous ways. Jesus had harsh words for those who used religion to enslave themselves and others.
There is a hipster class of Christians in their twenties and thirties who are very judgmental of those who they feel have been judgmental. Some of them join groups like Facebook’s Moody Bible Institute Heretics. Ironically the group has a strict code of conduct posted on their closed page. The group has a wide variety of membership, some of the people listed I would even consider friends. However, rather than seek harmony and peace with conservatives at Moody they have been stirring up trouble by actively attacking the ‘bastion’ of conservative theology that is Moody Bible Institute.
Of course, Moody has legalistic people in it. It has people who talk regularly as though Christianity were all about behavior. There are students who police the hallways and launch quickly into interventions to save their classmates from sins which they feel are more heinous than their own. Some professors do say things in class that result in students feeling shamed for asking questions. In my experience, though, it is not nearly as derogatory as the put-downs which I received at the hands of liberal theologians in Exeter University.
I would like to see people policing each other less. I’d like to be less policed by the negativity and critical spirit of The Moody Bible Institute Heretics and I would like to see people at Moody Bible Institute police each other less and support each other more. The primary commandments are to love God with everything we have and love our neighbour as ourselves. This does not mean that we all leave each other alone, but it does mean that we leave all bitterness and mean-spiritedness behind. Some people today call such things ‘hateful’, but I think ‘hate’ has been politicized and used as a tool to manipulate people to our own ends. I think that defending against hate is less important than to sit down with each other with open hearts.
I wonder why people from Jerusalem felt the need to police the Christians elsewhere. I wonder why we do the same. It was shown in the end that it wasn’t the problem of those who were being policed. It was shown eventually that those who were doing the policing had the problem. Although the Moody Bible Institute Heretics are evidently glad to be done with those of us who are still tied with Moody Bible Institute, I do not long for their behaviors to change. I long for some kind of reconciliation of relationship. I long for a mutual unconditional acceptance of each person whilst talking positively about what changes might benefit each person in the long run. There are road-blocks to that on both sides.
Dear Father, let us find relationship and peace. Of course, some of our behaviors are best left behind, but let us be careful how we communicate that. Show us how to establish safe places through accepting relationships where truth can be welcomed as a path to health.
- Why were the Christians in Jerusalem conflicted over the behavior of Christians in Antioch?
- Why did Christians in Antioch feel relieved after being told that the rules they had to follow were minimal?
- What is the relationship between rules and relationship?
- How do conservative churches and colleges communicate a cold adherence to rules?
- How can people who disagree over various rules continue living mutually respectful and mutually supportive lives?
Here is a post from a Moody Heretic with whom I would like to sit down and have a coffee: