Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-13; Exodus 12:43-49; Romans 3:30; Leviticus 18:30; Revelation 2:14, 20
Conflict can offer an opportunity to grow, but it’s often a sad affair. Ricky Best, Taliesin Namkai-Meche, and Micah Fletcher tried to intervene when Jeremy Christian launched into a racist harangue against two teenage girls (one of them was wearing a hijab) riding a MAX train during a Portland, Oregon rush hour in May 2017. Christian stabbed all three men, killing Best and Namkai-Meche. Fletcher barely survived.
A months-long clash over money donated to the victims ended this week as they reached a legal agreement over how to divide $1.6 million raised by supporters on GoFundMe. Namkai-Meche's family said the stalemate stretched for so long, in part, because the crowdfunding company does not have policies to address conflicts that may arise among beneficiaries. “The absence of established protocols for distributing the funds ultimately required that the victims' families decide among themselves how the funds should be shared,” their statement said. “This imposed a painful burden that, when reduced to its core, required the families to compare their losses. That is both an impossible and cruel task.”
Erin Olson, a lawyer for Namkai-Meche’s family, proposed that they should evenly distribute the money among parties. Ricky Best’s family attorney Robert Miller, however, argued his clients should receive most of the money because Best, an Army veteran and his household's breadwinner, left behind a wife and four children. The parties sought an independent arbitrator this spring. Namkai-Meche’s family said GoFundMe pocketed $49,561 in fees from the “Tri Met Heroes” campaign, along with whatever earnings the six-figure fund accrued while the company held it. Olson declined to disclose the final sum her clients received or how the money was ultimately distributed.1
It often takes a conflict to reveal inequities among church members that need correcting. A dispute between Jewish and Gentile Christians arose early on in the history of our church. This week’s lesson looks at the process those early believers followed to resolve their first great internal conflict. Jewish Christians believed that new Christian converts from outside the Jewish nation needed to adapt Jewish culture—specifically circumcision—to attain salvation. Since Jesus was a Jew, all new converts must also become Jews. Paul and Barnabas said no—that salvation belongs to all races and circumcision creates a burden on these Gentile believers that’s not required by the gospel.
It was time to gather church leaders for a council at Jerusalem to decide the matter and establish protocols to address future conflicts. The early church had yet to establish a clear, reasonable organizational structure. They came to an agreement through the study of scripture (including the teachings of Jesus), prayer, and a willingness to humble themselves when present truth clashed with personal opinions and long-held notions. It often takes a Holy Spirit miracle for hard hearts to soften for the sake of the mission and the salvation of God’s lost children.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: On a piece of paper, draw up a list of requirements (spoken and unspoken) for becoming a member of your local church. Put a check mark by those that might be a matter of tradition rather than biblical.
Sharing: Read Acts 15:1-5. What was the dissension in the church in Antioch and why was it such a big deal?
1. Some of the Pharisees had become believers but still struggled with old prejudices toward Gentiles.
2. It was natural for circumcised Jews to believe this rite was necessary for Gentile believers.
3. When Christ came, all the Jewish ceremonies pointing to Jesus were fulfilled and no longer necessary.
4. The primary issue wasn’t really religious; it was about control.
5. It’s interesting that, in verse 1, it was called a “custom” of Moses, but by verse 5, it is called a “law” of Moses.
Applying: A newly-baptized member of your church brings a dish of baked salmon to the vegetarian potluck to celebrate his decision to join the church. It creates a “dispute” in the kitchen. How should it be handled?
Valuing: Has your local church experienced conflict? How does this story give you encouragement?