Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. (Galatians 2:1-2 NIV)
The chronology of Paul’s ministry is not a perfect science. A good number of people believe the reference in this morning’s passage is to Paul’s participation in something called “The Jerusalem Council.”
The Jerusalem Council was a gathering of church leaders (which, of course, took place in Jerusalem), to address issues relating to Gentile Christians. Were they to be circumcised to fulfill the sign of the Old Testament covenant? What else might need to change in their practice or lifestyle for the cause of Christ.
Paul and Barnabas attended the council as a result of some trouble others from Judea had caused in Antioch (Home base for Paul and Barnabas). In the end, the council concluded they should request that the Gentiles avoid sexual immorality and abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, of strangled animals and blood.
To make things interesting, Paul took Titus to the council meeting. Titus was an uncircumcised Greek believer. I will let you speculate as to whether Paul wanted Titus there for his personal growth as a leader, as a thorn to toss into the debate, or both. One thing is for sure: it was harder for Christian leaders to carelessly address issues relating to Gentiles when they had one in their midst.
It is always harder to dismiss what God is doing when it is standing right before us…
When I was a kid, I had a distant relative no one wanted to be around. It wasn’t that he was a bad person. In fact, he was very friendly. It’s just that…well…he never took a bath. He didn’t have a bath. He didn’t have running water.
Sometimes my relative would try, unsuccessfully to get someone to give him a ride. Then he would ask my grandparents and they would say yes. They would complain. Oh, they would complain! But they never said no. And when he rode with us, we treated him like one of the family.
My relative would attend church too. He would sit near the front. And he would sing at the top of his lungs. His voice wasn’t too bad. But he smelled…really bad. A lot of people complained about the smell. Yet, they sat near him. Some even sat next to him and held a song book with him. They talked with him, smiled at him and treated him like one of the family…the church family.
It is really hard to ignore the heart of God in someone, even if there is something about them we don’t like. That’s why the worse thing we can do is put a wall up between ourselves and the people God needs us to love.
Titus was a problem. He was a good problem…but a problem. I can’t help but think Paul knew exactly what he was doing.
Dear God, keep my eyes open to the things You are doing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.