So much of what Paul taught evidenced how God was saving the Gentiles. These teachings were often misinterpreted by the Jewish community of believers who found it hard to accept that salvation could come without the strict adherence to the Jewish traditions and accompanying commandments that God had given the Israelites thousands of years before Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
In Acts 21, Paul endeavors to prove that he has not forsaken the Mosaic laws, not because he changed his mind about the free gift of salvation, but to indicate that he was still a Jew by birth and by culture, and that he was also a committed Christian.
This past week at work I have been in training, and one of the required courses teaches diversity in the workplace. You might think that in this modern age, there would not be a need to discuss the differences in other people. Yet, what is common whether at work or at home, is a low tolerance for those differences.
In case you are prone to say, “Not me,” consider that we all tend to say about others such things like, “Why would anyone do that?” Or, “that’s really weird,” or “why can’t people just be normal?” What we are saying in each instance is that we don’t understand each other. Just being raised on the opposite side of the country, or donning traditional outfits, using colloquial sayings, and/or worshipping God with hands held up can be viewed as odd. That is not to say that all of us judge others by our own standard, but that we are affected by how diversity often looks like strangeness.
Yet when we cry out for mercy, we who know God sound just like a king whose cries went up to heaven, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,” (Psalm 31:9) And again, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble,” (Psalm 32:7). It does not matter that we were not born into a Jewish family. Psalm 33:13 says, “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”
Since we are individually fashioned, our family of earthly origin is secondary to the shared spiritual soul. The deepening love we have for sisters and brothers in Christ crosses all boundaries of ethnicity, time, age, and other characteristics that divide people. How easy is it to find common ground with other Christians? Or are we looking in the wrong places to seek all those differences that serve only to divide us? I pray that I will see in the same way as the Lord who looks at us with pleasure.