I love validation!
We all do.
Validation is that moment when you are proven right and you get to jump up and yell, “Booya, in your face, I knew it, that’s right, who’s your daddy, I own you, YES, I… AM… THE… MAN!”
And, your wife just sits there and rolls her eyes, again, because you have once again bested her in your knowledge of Star Wars Trivia. Even though she hates those movies and can’t tell the difference between a Jedi’s Padawan and a Sith Lord, you still sit there smugly in your moment of triumphant validation… you dominate.
I admit it, I am a validation junkie. I remember once being in an argum… er… discussion with my betrothed about an actor on a sitcom in which I was so sure of myself and desiring validation that I ordered it at a drive through:
“Yeah, I’ll have a Number 2 Combo with a Diet Coke, and could I sub onion rings for the fries? And, I need a number 3 with a diet coke? And, do you know the name of the actor who plays Sam the bartender on Cheers; you know the one who dated Whoopi Goldberg?”
My Whopper never tasted so sweet… it was Ted Danson… YES! Validation even from teenage drive-thru attendants feels good… I must have an illness.
Still, one place I often don’t find validation is in Scripture. It’s there that I often find rebuke for what I’m doing wrong, encouragement to do better next time, strength for times of weakness, discipline for bad behavior, but very seldom do I ever read through Scripture and get an “At’a boy Andy.”
That’s why I was blown away today to have stumbled across a passage I’ve read a bunch (notice I didn’t say a thousand times because that’s a gross exaggeration which I do way too much, like a billion times a day), and in it I felt a great moment of validation.
Don’t worry, the words on either side of it kicked my butt all over the place, but for the moment I want to focus on the validation… focus, focus, focus.
Acts 15 is the story of church controversy. Paul and Barney are working with a fringe group called the Gentiles and even accepting this group into the church has made the original members a little bit nervous from the get go.
So, just like in churches today, a group of original members got together and decided on how the new people needed to act, dress and be if they were going to be a part of their club, and sent some ‘representatives’ to say this is how it’s gonna be.
I guess the story in Acts is even worse than the petty bickering in churches today because what these guys were actually telling the Gentiles was that they couldn’t really be saved by Jesus unless those Gentile men were circumcised like they were… cosmetic surgery for Jesus, Mutilated for the Master, Yeow for Yashuah… I have about half a page of these that are absolutely hilarious, but get really inappropriate… please forgive.
I know circumcision is even more of an expectation than a coat and tie on a Sunday morning, but the principle is the same, and when the Gentiles heard that this was expected of them there was of course “sharp dispute and debate”. In fact, the Greek for that language was also used for the word riot.
This was no small issue in the church.
It lead to Paul and Barney traveling back to the head office and being part of something we historically know as “The Jerusalem Council.”
The Old School folks made their case:
5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 15:5). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The chief Apostle Peter made his case:
7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 15:7-11). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The guys on the ground doing the work, Paul and Barney made their case:
12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 15:12-13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
At the end of the day and the debate, one of the church members/leaders and the half brother of Jesus himself named James who had weighed it all out said this:
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ac 15:19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
YES!!! Celebrate goodtimes, C’Mon! Let’s party like its 1999! Hallelujah! 10-4 good buddy we’ve got the hammer down, let’s roll!
James, who was obviously the leader of the flagship church of the Christian world in 1 AD set the standard for what ministry standards are: Don’t make it hard for people to turn to God!
From both inside and outside the church there has been criticism for years about doing church a certain way, but these words of Scripture validate the efforts of churches, ministries, ministers, and loving people everywhere to do whatever it takes to move people closer to a relationship with God by removing the obstacles that men have put in the way.
If we have to change the dress code on a Sunday morning, then so be it!
If we have to change the style of music, to whatever, then so be it!
If we have give up a program or add a new one, then so be it!
If we have to change our name, our appearance, our presentation, then so be it!
If we have to become something we don’t like to become something appealing to others, then so be it!
If we have to anything, at anytime, for any reason, then so be it!
The prime directive of the church from the first council was this: don’t make it hard for people to get to God.
And don’t forget, this prime directive isn’t just for an institution. The church is not an organization, it is the people. So, every individual who calls themself a believer should adhere to this as a personal code of conduct.
As we live our lives and follow the plans the Lord has laid for us, we need to spend less time listening to those from “party of the Pharisees” and more time working with those turning to God, smoothing the path in front of them.
To be honest… they’re more fun to hang out with anyway… did I say that outloud?