“22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, decided to select men who were among them and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas: Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote this letter to be delivered by them:
“From the apostles and the elders, your brothers,
To the brothers among the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
24 Because we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, 25 we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it was the Holy Spirits decision — and ours — to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from eating anything that has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. You will do well if you keep yourselves from these things.
30 Then, being sent off, they went down to Antioch, and after gathering the assembly, they delivered the letter. 31 When they read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 Both Judas and Silas, who were also prophets themselves, encouraged the brothers and strengthened them with a long message. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent back in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas, along with many others, remained in Antioch teaching and proclaiming the message of the Lord.”
If you have never had the joy of packing up and moving to a new location, then you have never had the unusual perspective given by physically laying hands on everything that you ‘own’ in a short amount of time, getting to evaluate it, getting to count it, to see how much space your stuff takes up in a moving truck or a storage space. It always makes me want to just get rid of it all and start over because I see just how much baggage I have accumulated, and just how much nonsense gathers around us. Here in the West, we have so much, too much. But we also seem to want to surround ourselves with even more as time goes on. For some it even becomes an obsession, in dealing with loss or grief or change, they gather and hoard and hem themselves in with more and more trying to physically fill in the space that they are emotionally struggling with…it is a cultural disorder.
So, When these new Christians hear about the simple joys faith, and hear about freedom that God offers in Jesus Christ, they are overjoyed and rightfully so. It is like waking up in the middle of your hoard and finding freedom to walk away and not need those extras anymore. It is like having your eyes opened up for the first time, someone taking lead boots off your feet. It is the sweet release of freedom that only can be brought to you by someone else, like a prisoner being unchained and their door being left to swing wide.
But then they meet people who have already been ‘free’ for a while, and they are given a suitcase, and maybe a backpack loaded with all the extras that they ‘must have’ in order to enjoy their freedom. They are loaded with expectations and arguments, with to-do lists and burdens that were never meant to accompany their freedom by the One who gave it to them. And in time, they are expected to fall in line with everyone else. Let the excitement wear off, get in step with reality, and polish the edge off that joy a little and THEN you will see what it really means to be ‘free’ like me.
These new believers were being loaded up with extra burdens, extra ‘joys’ that were not joyful from any angle of observation, and told that the freedom that had been purchased for them came with a few extra…caveats, that they needed to understand and carry along for themselves. (I hope this sounds incredibly familiar for us today.) And when they groaned under that burden, the church stood up, prayed, consulted Scripture, and stated that they were indeed allowed to enjoy their freedom to the fullest extent of the word. There were not going to be any rules that did not point their hearts toward God and God alone, or attempt to replace their new identity in Christ.
And so when they heard the good news, that ‘freedom’ really meant FREEDOM like they had hoped, then they rejoiced, as we all should. So, as you GoLove people like Jesus does, don’t bind heavy burdens on their backs, hearts and minds. Instead, show them that when we are free in Christ, we are free indeed!