Growing Pains, all churches have them, even the earliest church. In Acts we see the first issue that came to pass after the ascension of Jesus.
Acts 15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.”Acts 15:4-5
The fledgling Church was still trying to decide how to merge Gentiles and Jews. The Jews were insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised, the gentiles were not to fond of this idea. This was an issue that could have easily created the first schism in the Church. How was this avoided? Peter stood, as the first among all the apostles, and reminded those present of the mission of the Church, to save souls. What will bring the most souls to Christ.
I was reminded the other day at a parishioners home, of the Baptist church I spent 11 years across from. Good Shepherd Episcopal was right across the street from First Baptist Wichita Falls. The Baptists were all about saving souls; it’s the mission, right? They would do this by offering iPads to those who regularly attended, offering Chic-fil-a after their service, (Wichita Falls for years did not have a Chic-fil-A franchise…they shipped it in from Layton OK!) they even went so far as to baptize kids at the water park. This certainly, from the surface, looks to be bringing “the most” to Christ. But if we look closer, the offering of worldly things like iPads and chicken is a bribe to follow Christ, and don’t get me started about baptizing at a water park. We are to come to Christ, as ones who have surrendered to Him, not as one who was enticed to worship.
And this is what brought the apostles together, instead of breaking them apart; the humility of surrendering to Christ. Coming to Christ should not be seen as a contest of wills. The Jews saw circumcision as a right of passage…“we did, why shouldn’t they have to”? Coming to Christ should not be seen as a competition; we surrender to Christ, that is all.
Coming to Christ should be seen as charity. Love of God and Love of neighbor. This means you bend where the Church allows, but stand firm where the Church does not. As traditional Christians we are sometimes branded as hateful, as we do have to lay down the law in places. We should be aware of this and learn to bend when we can.
The apostles were divided at the council of Jerusalem, no doubt. They, as all subsequent councils, agreed that they would present their arguments, listen, reflect, but in the end, they would agree with the decisions of the council, whether they agreed with it or not.
Some might question how this is not abused as a practice. For one, we have had 21 ecumenical councils, and the Church still stands and holds the truth of the Gospel. In this we should remember Peter’s final words in his address to the Jerusalem Council.
Acts 15: 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood.Acts 15:19-20
Peter was stating that though he had directed the Church not to follow one of the traditions of Judaism, he still instructed the Church to stand against the known heresies. There are limits; but God guards His Church, and the powers of Hell will never overcome it.
As we grow there will be discussions, maybe even an argument. We should hear each other out in a Christian manner. We will act in charity and love towards one another. We will decide these difference in accords with the Ordinariate practice and the law of the Catholic Church. And after the discussion is ended and decided, we should all pledge to walk forward together to grow the Catholic Church here in Cleburne, remembering that schism nor rancor ever grew a church.