The early Christian Church had its share of challenges. As the number of disciples grew, people of various cultures were added to Church. Then, after Saul of Tarsus accepted Jesus, he was commissioned by the Church at Antioch, along with Barnabas, to preach the Gospel in Asia Minor resulting in many Gentiles being baptized. A number of communities of Jesus-followers, house churches made up of Jews and Gentiles, were created.
Paul’s ministry came under scrutiny as some Jewish Christians from Judea learned that Gentiles were not required to adopt certain Jewish customs (such as circumcision) before baptism. This resulted in the Jerusalem Council. According to Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas reported to the church all that God had done through them on their mission (vs. 4). Though they were opposed by some, James, speaking on behalf of the Council, determined that “we not trouble [hinder] those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles” (vs. 19).
I’ve been thinking about this idea of “not troubling” those who are coming to Jesus. How can people who are being drawn to Him be troubled (or hindered)? Well, in this particular case, they were being told that “it was necessary to be circumcised” (vs. 5). This was an unnecessary added barrier that could have resulted in less people accepting Jesus. Paul reacted strongly against this. No obstacles should be placed on the path of people who God is drawing to Himself.
The Church is called to facilitate the process of people coming to God, but sadly it often does the very opposite. Is it possible that some good people in our increasingly secular society want nothing to do with God because they have failed to see His character in those who have been called to represent Him. Have some accepted atheism because the picture they have been given of God is not worth believing in? How can we make it easy for people to come to Jesus? There’s so much that could be said, but the answer that’s coming to my mind is simple: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).