Monday, June 30, 2008

Acts: Timothy (16:1-3)

Right after the big debate in chapter 15 concluding that Gentile believers do not have to be circumcised, Paul goes and circumcises a half Greek before taking him along on this second mission trip.
 
There is probably a big theological-historical reason behind this action, but the fact is it carries an important lesson for cross cultural evangelists today—even for non-cross cultural witnesses. In an effort to reach people with the message of the Gospel, it does not pay to parade the liberty we have in Christ.
 
Legalism is evil and needs to be resisted, fought, and countered at every opportunity. It was, after all, the greatest force resisting Jesus Himself and his ministry here on earth in the form of the Pharisees et al. However, certain cultural conventions must be taken into account. What conventions must be followed in order to not distract people from the message we wish to share?
 
Legalism says: “don’t drink, don’t smoke.” Newer forms of legalism demand healthy lifestyles of exercise and good diet. Salvation does not depend on these behaviors. Christian’s have the freedom to drink or eat fast food. But in many cultures religious people are expected to live more or less healthy and moral lives. To not do so would invalidate any claims that the answers we provide are effective.
 
That is not to say that people must “have it all figured out” or have things “all together” in order to share what Christ has done in their lives. It simply helps to have a degree of discipline and self-imposed standards.
 
Timothy didn’t have to undergo circumcision to please God, but why create more hurdles for the message?

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