Sermon in a nutshell: “Minimum Requirement” (Acts 15:22-35)
We all love peace. We do not want to fight with others. However, sometimes, we have to fight to protect our family, our nation, and ourselves. Even the most peace-loving person would use force to protect his family members when a criminal tries to harm them. We need to have, at least, minimum rules and regulations, even when we honor freedom of action and freedom of speech!
I will share an example. After World War II, Germany revised its Constitution to protect the democracy from dictators. The Constitution allowed free speech of the citizens. (We also have the First Amendment of our Constitution that protects our free speech). However, having experienced Hitler, the people realized that they needed some restrictions against unlimited freedom! So they adopted a policy called Defensive Democracy.
Our Supreme Court, also, interprets the First Amendment in the same way. We cannot have unlimited freedom of speech, which would negate our identity as the country of freedom and liberty. When we enjoy our freedom and liberty, we must also respect other’s freedom and liberty. If someone tries to take them away from us, we will fight to keep them, saying, “Give me liberty or give me death!” That is why even though we love peace, we have soldiers and remember their sacrifices for our country!
The same principle can be applied to our Christian identity. In the first church, the disciples of Jesus debated the minimum rules and requirements to be a Christian. They wanted to open hearts, open minds, and open doors. However, when doing this, they also needed to have minimum requirements for the newly converted Christians to keep their Christian identity!
Was circumcision necessary to be a Christian? No! Does that mean, however, we discard all the criteria to be a Christian? No! We need minimum requirements and we need to defend them to keep our identity. The question is, therefore, what would be the minimum criteria?
In the Jerusalem Council the following decision was made: “we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.”(Acts 15:20). When they delivered the decision in a letter, it had more specific regulations. “Abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:29)
These efforts were made to keep both the Christian identity and to give freedom. These discussions are still going on today and everybody has a different set of rules to be a Christian. Our UMC has five criteria we use when we receive a new member: prayer, presence, gifts, service, and witness. We need to be open to everybody but we also need to keep our boundaries. If necessary, we need to fight to keep them.
Brothers and sisters, when we honor those who fought and fight for our country to keep our freedom and liberty, let us also stand firm to keep our Christian values and practices. At the least, let us practice those five minimum requirements. Pray continuously. Come and be a part of church activities. Give as much as you can. Serve as much as you can. And be a witness to God’s love and justice in every way possible. Let us fight a good fight against our greed, laziness, and self-centeredness. After we fulfill these minimum requirements, God may use us further to transform our community, our country, or the whole world.
- Among those five minimum requirements (Pray, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness), what is the one that you need to work on more?
- How would you fulfill the requirement of Witnessing?