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To Schmooze or not to Schmooze?

To Schmooze or not to Schmooze?
Words of Faith 7-21-16
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2016
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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Acts 21
[15] After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. [16] Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
[17] When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. [18] The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. [19] Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
[20] When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. [21] They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. [22] What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, [23] so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. [24] Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. [25] As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."

Paul was finally wrapping up his third missionary journey. Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Paul. There was trouble brewing in Jerusalem for Paul. A lot of politicking, both good and bad, was going on there. How did Paul handle it?
Luke does not mention it but Paul was coming to deliver an offering he had received from the Gentile churches for the church in Jerusalem (1Cor. 16:1-4, Rom. 15:25-27). The motive for this offering was foremost to give aid to the mother church in Jerusalem, which had many poor widows to care for but the offering obviously would help build a bridge between Gentile believers and Jewish believers. The offering would have been especially meaningful to James, the brother of Jesus, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
James was a no-nonsense kind of guy responsible for caring for the many widows of Jerusalem through several famines. James was inspired of the Lord to write “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-17). The offering would certainly help smooth a relationship with James.
James and the others in Jerusalem were wary of connecting with Paul. Paul’s conflicts with synagogue leaders had filtered back to Jerusalem. Rumors were now circulating that Paul was teaching the Jews who live among Gentiles to turn away from their traditions and not to circumcise their male children. Of course there was no truth to this but is was an inflammatory situation.
The church in Jerusalem had sought to maintain solidarity with the Jewish nation. They were cautious about being identified with Paul’s efforts to reach Gentiles. The solution proposed by the elders was for Paul to pay for the ritual of Nazirite purification for four Jewish believers. This would a mizvot or good deed toward a fellow Jew and would possibly win favor with Jews.
It is interesting that Paul, who wrote so vigorously about not living to “please men” (Galatians 1:10, 1 Thes. 2:4) would agree to this effort in order to keep peace with the non-believing Jews in Jerusalem. But remember, this is the same Paul who declared to Gentiles, “If you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all (Galatians 5:2), but who later circumcised Timothy so that he would be accepted among the Jews of the area (Acts 16:3).
Hmmm. So was Paul more of a “people-pleaser” than he would admit? Not necessarily. The ritual requested by James and the leaders in Jerusalem was one Paul himself had participated in as a Jew just a few months earlier at the end of his last journey. There was no compromise here. Also, circumcising Timothy made sense because Timothy was a Jew. Paul had never argued that Jews should cease the practice only that it did not justify them and Gentiles should not be required to observe a Jewish tradition. Circumcising Timothy was in keeping with tradition and enabled Timothy to minister among Jews. Clearly, Timothy did not see it as a justifying act.
Here is the point. As distasteful as it may sound, sometimes we have to politick a little to build bridges. Paul knew that. We can trust that every action of Paul was submitted to prayer and led by the Spirit. The key is that we never compromise who we are in Christ. You can bet that Paul would never let that happen. Paul was not afraid to face down an Apostolic leader like Peter (Galatians 2:11-21) but he was also not afraid to submit to the guidance of James and grease the relational skids a bit when that made sense.
So. To schmooze or not to schmooze? That is the question. If we follow Paul’s example, we will listen to the Spirit and not be afraid to build bridges in ways that do not compromise the Gospel of Christ.

Lord, the world of relationships can be confusing. I want to hear from You. Guide me. Let me not be afraid to build bridges but keep me on the path of integrity and faithfulness to You. In Jesus' name.

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2001, 2016
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2010 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.