News: Fake, Bad & Good | James Stevenson
The council at Jerusalem
1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’ 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Fake news, bad news, good news
We all know about fake news these days and it can sometimes be hard to tell it apart from the truth. Luke tells us about the fake news that was spread in Antioch all those years ago. Some people had arrived from Judea and informed the Church that the basis of unity was male circumcision. Nobody could count themselves a real member of the Church unless they were circumcised. Unsurprisingly, this came as a shock to the non-Jewish Christians!
But Paul and Barnabas knew it could not be true. From the Scriptures and from their own experience of life they knew about the bad news: that the consequence of sin is death, and that ‘all have sinned and fallen short’ as Paul was to write later on. And they also knew the good news: that Jesus had died, been raised to new life and poured out the Holy Spirit, and in doing so had saved humanity from sin and death. Nobody needed to be circumcised to be saved: they just needed to repent, believe and be baptised.
‘Jesus saves!’ In many people’s eyes this is nothing more than a car sticker, whereas these two simple words are in fact the very basis of our faith. I wonder how you react to that statement.
-Do you have a horrible feeling that ‘Jesus saves!’ is actually fake news? You wish it could be true but you don’t want to be gullible. Try reading the Bible with a Christian friend or two and get a grasp of what they think about it.
-Or is ‘Jesus saves!’ a statement you once held firmly to, but you feel you’ve now grown out of? Rather like those clothes you wore a couple of decades ago which now just look silly in photos. Have you moved on and found other aspects of ‘church’ more significant for gathering around, and in doing so have caused disunity? Perhaps around the issue of infant or adult baptism, ‘Little Church’ membership or not, what music should be used or how frequently one should take communion.
The centre of our church and our faith must be Christ – this is the only sure foundation. To overcome conflict and disunity perhaps the best advice is to ‘Kneel and carry on fighting’. It is very hard to do this, both physically and spiritually, in a posture of humility and surrender to the one that we are kneeling before. Beginning a rhythm of daily prayer is a good way to find the path back to the truth.
-But if your reaction to ‘Jesus saves!’ is one of joy, you are undoubtedly aware of how bad the bad news is. You will want to spread the good news to those who are listening to the fake news of self-help solutions and easy fixes for body-mind-and-spirit.
The bad news and the fake news are all around, but as we pray day by day, we are reminded of the truth – that Jesus is Lord and that he has brought us from death to life.