So here’s one thing that jumped out at me from today’s reading (Acts 15)… The Christians start reaching people who are far from God. Some very legalistic Christians come swooping in demanding that these people who are now turning to God first clean up their acts. (Actually, not clean up their acts, but clean up their… well, never mind.)
But James, who gets my “Favorite Guy In This Story” award, says, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” That’s one of my themes. “Let’s not make it difficult for people who are far from God to turn to God. Let’s be honest with them that it’s difficult to follow Jesus. Let’s challenge those who choose to do so. But let’s not make it difficult for people who are far from God to turn to God.”
Well, one reason is that God is a loving Father who wants His lost children to come home. When the prodigal son showed up at the driveway, the father didn’t wait to see what the son would say, or to hear what he had did or if he had repented, he just wraps him up in a hug and in his love. Loving fathers don’t make it difficult for their lost kids to come home.
And second, because it’s a gift. In the story, Peter says, “No, we can’t require them to clean up their acts first, because it’s a gift. We’re saved by grace. And if you ask people to do a bunch of things to receive a gift, it stops being a gift. It starts becoming something you have to earn, and this is something people can’t earn.”
So, if you or your church is trying to help people who are far from God turn to God, are you making that difficult for them?