Made to Measure!
By Captain Terry Camsey
I seem to recall, and was reminded the other day, that many years ago in medieval times there was a form of punishment known as the “torture bed.” Apparently, those who displeased the authorities were strapped to the bed, the goal being to make them fit the size of the bed. Those too short were stretched until they fit. For the even more unfortunate who overlapped the frame, some “overlapping” of the protruding parts took place until a perfect fit was achieved.
It reminded me again of what the late Jack Simms referred to as “cultural circumcision,”…the practice of striving to ensure that everyone fits the same mold! It was a problem with the early church when non-Jews were being won into the Christian fellowship. Since their culture was decidedly non-Jewish, therefore threatening to the “ruling majority,” the majority sought literally to “trim them to fit their bed!” Colossians 2-4 deals with the issue, and has some clear teaching on what the attitude of Christians should be toward the new converts. It tells us not to follow other people’s rules about religious celebration and worship that are:
…Chauvinistic to those of different cultures, or different customs, or who are foreigners. Rules that …
…Refer to earthly, passing things …man-made commandments/teachings …part of man-made religion.
It asks us to show mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience to others …holding tightly to Christ so that the church grows in the way God wants it to grow!
By then, the Church had already “been there” once. Acts 15 records the episode where Paul and Barnabas had returned from a missionary trip and “reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in.” (The Message)
The Jews in Jerusalem insisted that everyone be circumcised, else they could not be saved (the Gentiles were being won to Christ). Paul, Barnabas, plus a few others, put the issue before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem, but some of the Council held to the “hard line” of Pharisees, insisting that pagan converts be circumcised. Peter asked them why they were trying to “out-God” God, “loading new believers up with rules that “crushed” their ancestors and “crushed” them too.” James quoted the prophets:
“I’ll rebuild David’s ruined house;
I’ll put all the pieces together again;
I’ll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
So they’ll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples included in what I am doing.”
James’ decision was, “We are not going to burden unnecessarily (beyond the bare necessities) non-Jewish people who turn to the Master.” Scripture reports that the people in the church at Antioch were “greatly relieved and pleased.”
So am I!