Maybe you've heard an old saying that, "People don't change, they just get more so" or something along those lines. It certainly seems like a truism for some people we know, right?
But we also know that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can be truly transformed. This transformation doesn't occur over night, but is more like a life-long adventure.
With its reliance on the Holy Spirit, the early church and its conflict resolution is truly a marvel. Sometimes we forget how the early church was first made of Jews, and just like any other group of Jews, some were more pharisaical than others. Recently we talked about the hurdle of opening the church to the gentile God-fearers in the story of Peter and Cornelius. And then they widened their circle to include gentiles with even no Jewish references at all in Antioch. Some insisted that these new non-Jewish converts be circumcised. Were they just being over-zealous and self-righteous? Or were they genuinely concerned about keeping their faith pure? They probably leaned more towards the latter.
Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the church concluded that they would not add any more burdens, but require only the essence of their faith, namely believing in the crucified and risen Christ. Jesus said, "This is the work that God requires: believe in the one whom he has sent" (John 6:29 NEB).