6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
Peter received power for his work among the Jews, Paul was God’s instrument to make God’s name known among other people. Different gifts exist within God’s congregation. There are different tasks. Gladly the Holy Spirit enables one for this and another for that. What is more important: pastoral care within the church or spreading the good news outside of it? Do we focus on those who are alienated from God’s service or adherents to other religions? Refugees or migrants? Are we taking care of fellow Christians or for people in the gutter?
Unfruitful contradictions. It is a good thing that not all Christians are doing the same thing. This does not mean that everyone should be doing “their own thing”. Together the congregation stands for God’s work. James, Peter and John spent their energy on ‘internal mission’. They shook Paul’s right hand before he went out preaching. He went out with his charisma but minded his needy brothers and sisters in Jerusalem’s mother church.
Two thousand years ago attention was focused on those circumcised inside and those uncircumcised outside of the church. Today the church serves the uncircumcised ‘own people’ whilst praying for circumcised newcomers. That they may be ‘recircumcised’ with the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:11). One will pray for them, others will go and meet them: youth hanging in the streets, illiterate mothers or well-educated Muslims. Together in God’s service.
Thou hast an arm that’s full of power,
thy hand is great in might;
And thy right hand exceedingly
exalted is in hight
Justice and judgment of thy throne
are made the dwelling-place
Mercy, accompanied with truth,
shall go before thy face.