Today's Reading: Acts 15-16
As God moves the community of believers forward in mission, there are times when the movement is so fast and great that many begin to complain, have trouble keeping up and/or begin to murmur. This happened as Moses moved the people in the wilderness, as Joshua moved the people into the promised land, as the prophets moved the people into faithfulness and as Jesus moved the disciples into sacrificial love.
We should not be surprised, then, as the Holy Spirit moves the young church into God's vision of salvation, "sharp disputes and debates" occur.
Some of the believers, holding to the Mosaic law, believed all the Gentiles who became converts to the gospel of Jesus Christ needed to be circumcised. As the understanding of "God's people" expanded, those who had been insiders, lovers of the law and faithful believers began to complain and murmur. Were the leaders of the disciples moving too fast, wandering off the path? Or were they following the leading of the Holy Spirit?
Change is hard.
When it seems as though God is changing, it is not only hard but confusing.
How does one discern when God is doing a new thing or when people of God are randomly doing their own new thing?
If the debate between the "certain people came down from Judea to Antioch" and the Paul/Barnabas team had been based solely on the scripture of the day, the "certain people" would have been claimed the winners of the debate. But Paul and Barnabas were the ones truly following the Holy Spirit.
This makes me uncomfortable. It's hard for me when the rules seem to change. It's hard for me to discern when a new wine skin is needed for new wine. This requires much fasting and prayer.
And might result in sharp disputes and debates...