No, not my life… For about two years I have taught a course at Tabor College (Wichita) called, curiously, The Life of Paul. It is a survey course that covers the life and teachings of the Apostle Paul. The students, all undergraduates, are earning their degrees in Christian Ministry.
This past week we covered the part of Paul’s story where he and Barnabas travel to Jerusalem, after what historians call Paul’s first missionary journey, to participate in a discussion with the leaders of the very first, and very Jewish, church about the status of believers who begin to follow Christ apart from Judaism. After much discussion the leader of the church in Jerusalem, who is also the half- or step-brother of Jesus, stands up and says these simple words:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”
There is much talk about the word missional these days. There is much talk of it here on this blog. However, I think it is best understood in words like these above. Simple and straight to the point, James says that we shouldn’t make it difficult for them to come to God. Don’t lay trip on them. Don’t weigh them down with cultural trappings that have no bearing upon the simple truth of the Gospel of Jesus. Be a shoehorn. Help them slip into the life of the Jesus Community.
Whoever the Gentiles of today are, the burden rests on us not to make it difficult for them as they turn to God. Perhaps, we follow God most closely, most missionally, by getting out of the way.