Acts 21:21-26 (NLT)
21 But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs.22 What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.23 “Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow.24 Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws…26 So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.
One of the things I love about the book of Acts is you get to see Paul in action. Did he really practice what he preached? For instance, when he gave the Corinthian church the principle of not causing your brother to stumble…did he do that himself?
We see here that he did. Apparently there were some greatly exaggerated stories about Paul’s conversion to Christianity…that he had become anti-Jewish. Of course he wasn’t. He knew it and the elders in Jerusalem knew it…nevertheless, the rumors continued. What could be done?
The elders suggested he simply show the rumors to be wrong – by going to the Temple with some other Jews and partaking in a Hebrew purity ritual. He didn’t NEED to do it. Doing so would be going out of his way and would be an expense of time and money. But he did it anyway, for the sake of his brothers.
It’s the principle I shared on Sunday that cuts against the grain of the consumerist American church: God first – others second – me third. When you become a leader in the church, you lose the right for it to be all about you.