Coming to criticise or to celebrate?

Acts 15: 1 “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

There is no length that people will go to put people right. But there are certain people who will put themselves out to make sure others are put out if they do not comply.

A 300 mile journey to Syria was nothing so long as people were corrected. Correction was more important than celebration.

Gentiles could not become Christians unless they first became a Jew. Be circumcised, become a Jew, then you can be a Christ follower. The immoral were coming to Christ and these certain people introduced a different gospel. They were challenging the gospel of grace. There was no celebration, just criticism.

Sinners love grace.

The self-righteous hate grace.

Tony Campolo tells about being invited to speak in Honolulu one time and having trouble getting his body to adjust to the ten-hour time shift from his home in Philadelphia. He wound up wide-awake at three o’clock in the morning drinking coffee in an all-night diner. Presently the door opened, and in came about eight women laughing and talking loudly. Campolo soon deduced that they were streetwalkers finished with their evening’s work and relaxing before going home to sleep. One, named Agnes, mentioned to her friend that the next day would be her thirty-ninth birthday. After the group had left, Campolo got a bright idea. He said to the gruff proprietor behind the counter, “Did you hear that one woman say tomorrow was her birthday? Whaddya say we throw her a party? I’ll come back tomorrow night with some decorations, and let’s surprise her with a cake and everything!” The man’s wife came out of the kitchen. Both of them said, “That’s a wonderful idea. Let’s do it.” Twenty-four hours later the little diner was decorated with streamers and balloons. A festive sign was taped to the mirror. The couple had put the word out and a large assortment of night people were gathered. When the prostitutes came in for their usual coffee, the shout went up: Happy Birthday Agnes!” The woman stood speechless as the singing began. Tears started to roll down her cheeks. Nobody had shown her genuine kindness in years. The owner brought out a birthday cake with candles. Agnes was in such shock that she had to be reminded to blow them out. She paused again, “Well, cut the cake, Agnes!” the proprietor said. She finally found words. In a whisper she said, “Please… I just… I just want to keep the cake. I’ll take it to my apartment down the street… just for a couple of days. Please let me keep the cake.” No one knew how to respond, but no one could think of a reason to refuse her request. So out the door she fled, holding the cake as if it were the Holy Grail. An awkward silence filled the room. Campolo finally broke in with a bold suggestion: “I have another idea – why don’t we pray?” Without hesitation he began to voice a prayer for Agnes, that God would bless her on her birthday, that God would bring peace into her life and save her from all that troubled her… At the amen, the diner owner said, “Hey you didn’t tell me you were a preacher? What kind of church do you preach at?” Campolo thought a moment, cocked his head sideways, and then answered with a grin, “I preach at the kind of church that throws birthday parties for whores at three-thirty in the morning!” What happened next was the most poignant moment of all. The man squinted at Campolo and announced, “No… no, you don’t. There is no church like that. I would join a church like that.” [from The Kingdom of God is a Party]

What kind of church are you part of? One that criticises or one that celebrates?

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