Acts 21:20-26: Avoiding unnecessary offence.

“20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.’ 26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.” NIV UK

When I read the story of ‘Willow Creek’ church in Chicago, I was struck by their commitment to dismantle every unnecessary barrier that could lie in the way of a person coming to faith. I believe there is a similar lesson here. On the face of it, this could look like compromise. However, I believe it’s about Paul not wanting to be a stumbling block to anyone. Where a point of cardinal doctrine is at stake it is our duty to be inflexible; but where it, isn’t there is room for manoeuvre. We must never compromise truth, but in our practice there may be concessions we can make that will help people move towards Christ.

‘’To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.’’ (1 Corinthians 9:20a)