In today’s First Reading the Council of Jerusalem concludes by sending a letter and envoys to Christians from a Gentile background, as well as the converts from Judaism who were telling them they had to be circumcised and follows Mosaic Law for salvation. Nothing more would be expected of them than had been expected of Gentiles living among Jews in the past (the norms mentioned in the letter come in part from Leviticus 17, which had norms for non-Jews living among Jews). Paul and Barnabas return to their Church to share the good news, and Judas and Silas come with them to show that the decision is legitimate.
When the letter is read to the Christians assembled in Antioch we can only imagine their relief. Jewish strictures were very demanding and would have involved a dramatic change of lifestyle for the Gentiles who were already trying to bring their lives into conformity with the Gospel. Here we see the birth pangs of the Church as she goes beyond the cultural confines of Judaism. Even today the faith goes beyond any one culture, while reflecting the culture of the believers who comprise the Church. The Gospel seeks to enrich every culture while not being enslaved to them, and that sense it will at times be counter-cultural.
Let’s not be shy about being counter-cultural if it means conforming our lives to the Gospel. If a decision comes between my culture and the Gospel, the Gospel should win.
Readings: Acts 15:22–31; Psalm 57:8–10, 12; John 15:12–17. See also 5th Week of Easter, Friday.