Adapting the faith

By Not Known

The history of Christianity has been one of adapting the faith
in different places. Christianity started as an Asian religion, specifically, a
religion of Palestine. It has spread into Asia Minor, the wider Middle East,
Europe, Africa, the Americas, East and South-East Asia, Russia and the Pacific.

This is a great story of adapting the faith to fit each new language and culture.
Of course, the message about Jesus has stayed the same – but its expression
varies from place to place. However, this has its challenges – for each new form
of Christianity has to make sure the message gets through truly.

The essence of the Christian message is ‘Just Jesus’, but this message easily
becomes ‘Jesus plus …’. We want people to hear about Jesus. We may
unintentionally give a message that to be a Christian is also to adopt a certain
culture in matters such as clothes, education levels, music styles, speech
patterns and so on. This is ‘Jesus plus’.

There was a challenge in the early church as Christianity moved out of its
Jewish roots. The very first Christians retained their Jewish cultural identity,
but refashioned it in Jesus. But, what about non-Jews? Were they to adopt
Jewish ways, as well as to follow Jesus?

These questions caused a crisis that led to a Jerusalem meeting (Acts 15:1-35).
The meeting recognised that non-Jewish believers were equally God’s people
and that life should not be made too difficult for them (w7-11, 19). They were
spared the full demands of the law and put under minimal requirements (v20).
In short, they were allowed to be non-Jewish Christians rather than being
pushed into a Jewish mould.

Paul states the underlying principle: I have become all things to all men so that
by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel

… (1 Cor 9:22-23).

How should we take the message of Jesus to different groups in our community?
Youth, poorly educated people, foreign workers and the like do not need the
message of ‘Jesus plus’. Faith should not be made too difficult for them.
Pray that the message others hear from us will be ‘Just Jesus’ and that we will
give space for others to follow Jesus within their own sub-culture.