Everyone [at the Jerusalem meeting about whether Gentile Christians had to follow Jewish customs] listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written:
'Afterward I will return
and restore the fallen house of David.
I will rebuild its ruins
and restore it,
so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord,
including the Gentiles —
all those I have called to be mine.
The Lord has spoken —
he who made these things known so long ago.'
"And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."
— Acts 15:12-21 NLT
James, the half-brother of Jesus,* gave us an incredibly important principle when dealing with new Christians in our churches, especially new Christians with different customs and backgrounds from our own: "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for [new Christians] turning to God." James was not talking about compromising the Good News of salvation by grace through faith. He wasn't suggesting throwing the moral principles of God out the window. He was, however, emphasizing that we shouldn't put barriers and spiritual hurdles in font of new believers. Our preferences, traditions, and ways of doing things all need to be examined. Are they consistent with — and essential to — Jesus' teaching and lifestyle? Are our practices just hurdles that new believers must negotiate before we accept them into our fellowship? James' principle is Jesus' principle. The early church followed it and so must we!
O, Father, I ask you to forgive us, open our eyes, and change us. Forgive us for placing obstacles in the way of new Christians. Open our eyes to the things we do, say, and have as traditions that make it hard for new Christians to grow in Jesus and be accepted into our fellowship. Dear Father, I also ask that the Holy Spirit move in us and stir us to change so that new believers find us welcoming, genuinely concerned for them, and a great encouragement to them. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.