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Grace - What is the Nature of the Church?

Have you ever been part of a group or club that touched your heart or some deep part of you to the extent that you just had to join them? But then something got in the way? Today we hear about the Gentiles who have been told the good news of Christ, become believers and have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. And as the joy of these people becoming believers spreads another group of leaders come declaring that unless these Gentiles are circumcised that they cannot be saved. We are told that Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with these leaders and eventually a trip to Jerusalem happened so that this discussion could continue and be sorted out. This is the early church trying to sort out its identity. What began in Jewish history and culture was becoming broader and including those outside of the Jewish tradition. As the Good News of the gospel spread more and more people where becoming believers and so things began to change. As these new believers joined existing believers, different traditions, cultures and practices were introduced. As we all know change is never easy. I remember listening to a church planter from the UK talk about how important it is to become a multi-ethnic and cultural church but that it is important that all members of this church adjust to share together. As the church expands things will change. Those from cultures and experiences different to ours will impact on our own culture and experiences. Each person brings a unique offering to the church, a unique set of gifts and skills, a unique relationship with God and with us all. Today we celebrate the baptism of Amelia. It is through this baptism we welcome her into the family of God and the church. There are no other hoops she needs to jump through to be accepted. The grace of God has welcomed her with open arms, and we do as well. The Good News of Jesus welcomes all. Unfortunately, we can put obstacles and conditions in the way of welcoming. It might be a dress code, it might be a theological stance, it might be a status question or even an ethnic question. I don’t believe that is the nature of the church, not the church as Jesus taught it. Grace is what matters here. The grace we receive from God as we are welcomed into God’s family, regardless of whatever we bring with us, is the important gift here. That should be the true nature of the church. Jay Robinson

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