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In Christ there is no east or west

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest Columnist 

Note: This is an opinion column.

It was a unique experience when Simon came to see me. “I’m Jewish, and I want to attend your church,” he said. “Is this alright?”

Simon explained that he’d married a Roman Catholic and they decided to compromise and come to Baptist worship.

I’m not making this up, nor can I explain it! But, of course, I assured Simon he’d be welcomed any time the door was open. And he and his wife became faithful attenders.

I thought of this lately when reading again about the Jew and Gentile issue in the first century. These groups didn’t get along very well, and animosity and misunderstanding continued after the church was established. Some Jewish believers thought Gentiles (non-Jews) should convert to Judaism before coming to Christ. And some Jewish believers thought the Old Testament dietary laws, among others, should be brought into the church. The apostle Paul taught that we’re made right before God through faith, not through the law, and there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. All are “one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:11, 28).

It took the early church a little time before they “got it.”

It occurred to me that this issue isn’t an issue today. I don’t know of any Jew/Gentile controversy in our mostly Gentile churches.

My generation faced another issue: black and white.

He was a teacher in a local school. He told his students that he, an African-American man, wouldn’t be allowed to attend some of the churches in the city. The students disbelieved, so he decided to show them. The next Sunday he attempted to enter a church, but the ushers turned him away. The following Sunday he returned with a CNN camera crew! The church made headlines throughout the nation.

The pastor was my friend. I called to offer my support and see if I could help in any way. He’d long been a proponent of his church having an open door. He loved his people. He wanted the church to deal with the crisis appropriately and to move forward. With his prayerful leadership the church did so, and the issue became a non-issue. And I think the racial issue remains a non-issue for churches I know. We believe God is no respecter of persons and we must offer friendship to people from all ethnicities and nationalities. The church decries racism.

It occurred to me that my generation experienced a “fiery test” just like the early church did.

Now we move on to other challenges, such as regathering and ministering in days after COVID.

I’m grateful we serve a savior who recognizes that our minds and hearts sometimes fall short of truth, and who patiently leads us through every crisis.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.

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