A call for abstinence
Act 21:25 “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
James and the elders do not want to put burdens on the new Gentile believers. They had written to the churches saying what they should abstain from 4 things and why. (See my blog on entitled sex, meat and black pudding from Acts 15:20). Now James reiterates this position.
Not all the teaching in the past was wrong. That’s the important point. Judaism had lots to offer the new believer especially in the way of discipleship and breaking with the idolatry found in many Gentiles lives.
Even in these early days of the early church advancement there was a need to embrace the old teachings.
How much further we have advanced in today’s modern Christendom?
But the things that our forefathers held to we no longer give a second thought to.
We have become all-embracing and in the promotion of grace we have ripped up any laws that have been passed down. In the main we are better for it.
However, we have forgotten the importance and the necessity for having the law in the first place. Without the law there is no sin. If there is no sin there is no need of grace. So what we think is grace may not be grace after all. It may be a grace-fake. I wonder if we need to be reintroduced to the laws of abstinence again?
I grew up in a Christianity where abstinence was not primarily for my sake i.e. I did not smoke because of health reasons, but for the sake of my walk with God, my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit etc. Abstinence revealed my love and devotion to God. But there isn’t a lot of abstinence in my life now and if there is, then not much of it is because I think God is pleased with me not doing or having something. Incidentally I still don’t smoke!
The Church has in many areas lost its abstinence because it is not pc in our society to be so ‘fundamental’. Other world religions sometimes have more abstinence than Christianity. But for us we are so afraid to reveal a God of rules, that there is now no danger of any do’s and do nots. The message is come as you are and stay as you are.
Maybe abstinence doesn’t prove anything of your discipleship and love for God. Maybe. But maybe it should.
Yesterday afternoon I spent a short but wonderful time with some missionaries who have returned home from the field for what will be at least a few years before they go again. In our conversation they talked about their desire not to get caught up with the agenda of desires that other Christians seem to have. They want to remain minimalistic and sacrificial. The irony is that in their church friendship circle they have believers thanking God that He has given them everything they could possible wish for and at the same time these missionaries are thanking God that their abstinence from these things has brought them closer to Him.
I do think James was right and that some abstinence is helpful for our walk with God. I think I need to have more things in my life that I don’t do because of my respect and fear for God. What about you?