It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John—the pillars of the church—shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that. (THE MESSAGE)
It seems obvious to us that we are not called to follow Jesus in exactly the same way as others are called. Some are passionate about public preaching; others about running church playgroups. Some apply business skills to Christian organisations; others write scholarly papers on biblical topics.
Our text today is another reflection of this diversity. Paul and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem agreed they had different tasks to perform. Paul focussed on non-Jews, whereas the others ministered mainly to the Jews. In our day, some concentrate on sharing the good news with new immigrants, others on teaching children in schools, and yet others on being chaplains to the sick and prisoners. None of us does all these things.
We are not to consider our own work inferior or superior to others’ work. God wants us all to serve him according to our situations, our skills, and our passions. No point in competing with others, no point in trying to do everything.
But we are all to have one thing in common: a desire to bring good news to the poor. Which in the Bible doesn’t just mean those without money. It means those who recognise their desperate need of grace and mercy. We may all serve God in various ways, but always with a focus on those who need him most.
In this way, we are all the same even if we are all different.